This month, we’re addressing the latest intel on incidents new and old around the Truckee/North Tahoe region.

We sought out information about whether Amtrak, the passenger railcar company, ever released more information on Aaron Salazar, who was found unconscious and injured near the Glenshire-area railroad tracks in 2018; an update on the people and company that allegedly started last year’s Dixie and Caldor fires; and what’s the latest with the arrest made in connection Butterfield Fire, which flared up on July 7? We also do a quick check-in on a Truckee intersection that a reader calls out as potentially dangerous.

~ AH

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LINGERING SMOLDERS

A father/son duo and PG&E reportedly caused the 2021 major wildfires in our region. What’s the status on these cases? And what about the professor?

The Dixie Fire, which burned nearly 1 million acres in Northern California last year and sent smoke to the Lake Tahoe Basin for weeks, was caused by a decayed tree falling on a PG&E powerline, which then remained unaddressed by staff for 10 hours. PG&E has since expanded powerline safety settings across the state and is working to underground other powerline stretches this year.

In the vicinity of the Dixie was alleged repeated arson by Gary Stephen Maynard, a former faculty member at Santa Clara and Sonoma State universities (according to The Sacramento Bee). The U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of California reported Maynard was responsible for 2021’s Cascade, Everitt, Ranch, and Conrad fires. “Some of the fires Maynard set were new fires behind the firefighters fighting the Dixie Fire,” the report included. Maynard remains in custody, with a status conference set for Nov. 29.

David Scott Smith and his son, Travis Shane Smith, are accused of reckless arson in connection with last year’s Caldor Fire, which burned 221,835 acres across El Dorado, Amador, and Alpine counties. The Smiths attended their preliminary hearing on Oct. 11 (after Moonshine’s press date) in El Dorado County.

~ Compiled by AH

About the Butterfield Fire, a Truckee woman was charged with starting it — what’s the update?

In case CR000038, Ellen Lindsey Walters is charged in count one with a felony violation of Penal Code Section 451(c), arson of a structure or forest, and charged in count two with a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code Section 148(a)(1), willful resistance, delay and/or obstruction of a peace officer. The defendant remains in custody with bail set at $100,000. The next court date is Oct. 18 at 1:30 p.m.

On or about July 7, multiple reports were received related to a fire in the area of Joerger Drive and Butterfield Drive near the Truckee River. 

As a result of immediate responses by multiple agencies including Cal Fire, Truckee Fire, and the U.S. Forest Service, the fire was located and quickly contained. Based in part on observations made at the scene of the fire, an investigation began, and the defendant was contacted. Soon thereafter, Walters was taken into custody and eventually booked into the local jail once it was appropriate to do so.

~ Jesse Wilson, Nevada County district attorney

RAILROAD RECAP

What happened with the Amtrak investigation surrounding the May 2018 Aaron Salazar incident?

The FBI and Amtrak closed the investigation on May 20, 2021, stating “no evidence of foul play or criminal activity.”

~ Olivia Irvin, Amtrak senior public relations manager

Problem intersection: At a relatively new junction between East Jibboom Street and Keiser Avenue in Truckee, right of way is unclear. The town shares that an improvement is coming. Photo by Ted Coakley III/Moonshine Ink

INTERSECTED

Since they punched East Jibboom Street through to the cemetery, town homes, and the Marriott/Coburn Crossing Development, many drivers think they have right-of-way coming from the post office; they just go straight across traffic without slowing at all. So, when you are coming from Glenshire Drive toward the post office, the corner is blind and the people going up the East Jibboom Street hill don’t yield and can’t see you. If no one has crashed yet, it’s coming.

Any thoughts on how to make it better?

We have a project that is reviewing a few options for this intersection, as well as the Jibboom Street corridor between Bridge Street and Keiser Avenue. For the Jibboom/Keiser intersection, the consultant is looking at a few stop-controlled configurations and a mini roundabout. The site is very constrained space-wise, so we are also looking at various one-way and two-way configurations on Jibboom Street and sidewalk on one side. That said, the project is temporarily on hold while we get a few other projects to, or through, construction (West River Streetscape and Legacy Trail Phase 4, for example).

~ Becky Bucar, Town of Truckee engineering manager

Author

  • Alex Hoeft

    Alex Hoeft joined Moonshine staff in May 2019, happy to return to the world of journalism after a few years in community outreach. She has both her bachelor's and Master's in journalism, from Brigham Young University and University of Nevada, Reno, respectively. When she's not journalism-ing, you'll usually find her reading a murder mystery, pounding the pavement on a run, or eternally throwing the ball for her dog.

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