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Bill Macfadyen: After Fatal Wreck, Ventura County Firefighter Not Alone on Journey Home

NoozWeek’s Top 5 starts with Larry Crandell, covers the Canyon Fire, comes across an alleged creeper, faces LeBron James, and survives an ejection

Silent salute. Click to view larger
Silent salute. (Ryan Cullom / Noozhawk photo)

Remember 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, as the time and date for the Celebration of Life and Legacy that Larry Crandell’s family and friends are throwing for him at The Marjorie Luke Theatre.

It promises to be epic, and not just because Mr. Santa Barbara’s dominating presence will be so evident. Don’t worry: As much as he’d like to be, he’s not being summoned for an encore emceeing gig from beyond the grave.

But his good friend, Kate Carter, has hours and hours of videotaped interviews with him and, well, he names names. A lot of names. Kate and her LifeChronicles crew are producing a video tribute for the day, and you will not want to miss it.

Click to view larger

The family has asked several locals to speak about the larger-than-life civic leader who died Aug. 30 at age 93. Family friend Dave Peterson is donating an array of the McDonald’s fare that Larry loved so much. Steven Crandell will have available copies of his dad’s book, Silver Tongue. LifeChronicles will be capturing memories of visitors for a later video compilation.

Fittingly, in more ways than one, the event will raise money for a scholarship in Larry’s name at the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

You’d best not be late. In keeping with the Larry Crandell tradition, the event will start on time and you can bet it will end with the audience still wanting more.

The Marjorie Luke Theatre is located on the campus of Santa Barbara Junior High School, 721 E. Cota St. Parking is plentiful and free at the school. See you there.

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According to our Google Analytics, 117,888 people read Noozhawk this past week. Here’s my take on your top five stories:

Hours after the Sept. 21 wreck that killed Ventura County Fire Engineer Ryan Osler, California Highway Patrol investigators were still gathering evidence at the crash scene on Highway 246 at the Purisima Road roundabout east of Lompoc. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
Hours after the Sept. 21 wreck that killed Ventura County Fire Engineer Ryan Osler, California Highway Patrol investigators were still gathering evidence at the crash scene on Highway 246 at the Purisima Road roundabout east of Lompoc. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

1. Ventura County Firefighter Killed in Rollover Crash While En Route to Canyon Fire

A Ventura County Fire Department water tender headed to the wildfire burning at Vandenberg Air Force Base rolled over in a violent crash east of Lompoc early Sept. 21.

The rig’s passenger, veteran Fire Engineer Ryan Osler, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver, a firefighter-paramedic whose identity has not been released, was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, authorities said.

The wreck occurred just before 6:30 a.m. on Highway 246 at the Purisima Road roundabout, about 2½ miles east of Lompoc.

Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said first responders arrived to find the mangled truck on its passenger side with its rear axle broken off some 25 yards away.

“For reasons we haven’t determined yet ... the driver of the truck lost control coming into the roundabout, and actually hit the roundabout, which caused the truck to overturn,” California Highway Patrol Sgt. Don Clotworthy said.

Foggy conditions were reported in the Lompoc Valley at the time, but Clotworthy said the investigation is continuing.

Ventura County Fire Engineer Ryan Osler and his family: wife Jennifer, daughter Amanda and son Brandon. (Ventura County Fire Department photo)
Ventura County Fire Engineer Ryan Osler and his family: wife Jennifer, daughter Amanda and son Brandon. (Ventura County Fire Department photo)

Osler, 38, had been with VCFD for 18 years and worked out of Moorpark Station 42. According to the Ventura County Star, he had followed in the footsteps of his late father, who also was a career Ventura County firefighter.

The Santa Clarita resident is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and their two children, Amanda, 12, and Brandon, 11.

The Oslers were high school sweethearts and recently celebrated their 21st anniversary together.

In a heartbreaking message posted on her Facebook page in the wee hours of Sept. 22, Jennifer Osler thanked family, friends and complete strangers for their support and for their prayers.

“I can’t sleep, I can’t bring myself to close my eyes,” she wrote. “I want you to know that I’ve read every text, every message, every post and every comment on every media outlet.

“Your words mean more to me than you realize. The outpouring of love is indescribable. #thankyou”

Family and friends have established a GoFundMe page to assist Osler’s family. Click here to make an online donation. Donations for the family also are being accepted by the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association.

Trailed by a VCFD battalion chief and a small contingent of firefighters, Osler’s body was transported by ambulance to the county Coroner’s Office.

Later that afternoon, he was transferred to a white hearse for the drive back to Ventura County as part of a much larger procession of VCFD fire trucks accompanied by law enforcement motorcycles and patrol cars.

As the motorcade made its way south on a congested Highway 101, fellow firefighters and trucks, their emergency lights flashing, lined the freeway overpasses to pay their respects. Every bridge in Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria was occupied for the somber rite of passage.

Ventura County fire officials said Osler is the first VCFD firefighter to die in the line of duty since 1991.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Rest in peace.

A firefighting aircraft bombs Vandenberg Air Force Base ... with fire retardant during the Canyon Fire on Sept. 20. (Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps / U.S. Air Force photo)
A firefighting aircraft bombs Vandenberg Air Force Base ... with fire retardant during the Canyon Fire on Sept. 20. (Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps / U.S. Air Force photo)

2. Canyon Fire Chars More Than 4,500 Acres at Vandenberg Air Force Base

A wildfire broke out at Vandenberg Air Force Base late on the afternoon of Sept. 17, burning in rugged terrain on the southern part of the 99,000-acre military base, southwest of Lompoc.

Over the next couple of days the size of the Canyon Fire grew relatively slowly, but by Sept. 20 the charred area covered 12,000 acres.

Favorable weather conditions helped firefighters get the upper hand by midweek, and it was 90 percent contained as of Sept. 22.

There was no immediate danger to structures, although the sometimes erratic flames were headed in the general direction of Space Launch Complex-3, where an Atlas V rocket was waiting to be launched. The launch, which had been scheduled for Sept. 18, was postponed for at least a week until the fire danger had passed.

It wasn’t all rosy scenarios, however.

To be candid, communications from the base/the Air Force/the federal government were abysmal. The first statements from VAFB’s public affairs office seemed more like rewrites of our Janene Scully’s reporting.

With flames clearly visible around the Lompoc Valley, smoke and ash drifting through the region, and evacuation warnings for Lasalle and Miguelito canyons adjacent to the base, wary residents had to take it upon themselves to form their own fire-watching brigade.

John Stamper, who boards his horses at La Salle Stables, at 451 Lasalle Canyon Road, spent so much time up on a ridge line charting the proximity of the flames that I’m surprised he didn’t get a visit from MPs or Homeland Security agents.

“The majority of our communication is coming from him,” Adelia Emerson told Janene. “He’s been up on the ridge, staying here morning, day and night.”

Just as the Canyon Fire seemed to be winding down on the South Base, a second fire ignited on the afternoon of Sept. 22 on the North Base, in the heart of the VAFB command complex.

Officials said the Washington Fire, which sparked near the 30th Communications Squadron building in the area of 13th Street and Washington Avenue, had forced the evacuation of several nearby buildings.

Base housing was not threatened by what is now a 300-acre fire, authorities said.

The causes of both fires remain under investigation.

Canyon Fire stories, meanwhile, accounted for six of Noozhawk’s Top 10 stories over the past week and four of the Top 5.

3. Former Lompoc Police Volunteer, Retired CHP Officer Arrested for Alleged Crime Against Child

A fairly prominent Lompoc resident has been arrested on child molestation charges, and the news has sent shock waves through the community. Bail was more than doubled to $1 million in the case, which allegedly involves two victims.

Tony Durham was active in Lompoc circles. (Lompoc Police Department photo)
Tony Durham was active in Lompoc circles. (Lompoc Police Department photo)

As our Janene Scully first reported, just before midnight Sept. 18, Lompoc police announced the arrest of 67-year-old Anthony Michael “Tony” Durham, a longtime LPD volunteer and retired California Highway Patrol officer.

On Sept. 20, the District Attorney’s Office filed 14 counts of sexual contact with a child 10 years of age or younger and three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under age 14.

Durham, represented by defense attorney Chris Ames of Brookes & Ames, did not enter a plea during his appearance in Superior Court in Lompoc.

If found guilty of the charges, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Durham was active in the CHP’s Every 15 Minutes program, which challenges teenagers to think about drinking, driving, personal safety and responsible decision-making. After retiring from the CHP, he volunteered with LPD and the Sheriff’s Department.

He was named the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year in 2008, was appointed to the City Council in 2009 to briefly fill a vacancy, and was nominated for the Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize in 2012.

4. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers to Hold Mini Camp at UCSB

At the behest of basketball superstar LeBron James, the defending NBA-champion Cleveland Cavaliers will be holding an informal mini-camp at UC Santa Barbara.

As our Barry Punzal first reported in his exclusive story, Cavs players and coaches will voluntarily work out at the Thunderdome before preseason training camp opens Sept. 27. We’ll call it preseason-preseason.

Soon after the Cavaliers vacate campus, the Los Angeles Lakers will arrive for their official training camp.

5. Woman Ejected in Single-Vehicle Crash on Highway 154 in Santa Ynez Valley

There really was no useful information to go on, but our Brooke Holland gamely pursued the story anyway. Thank goodness for youthful enthusiasm.

Thank goodness, too, for one of the few rollover ejections with a relatively happy — if largely unknown — ending.

As Brooke reported Sept. 17, a 51-year-old driver was ejected from her car when the vehicle crashed over the side of Highway 154 about a mile south of Highway 246 in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The woman, whose identity and medical condition were not released, escaped serious injury but nonetheless was flown by a CalStar helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, county Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said.

There were no other vehicles involved in the wreck, and the cause is under CHP investigation.

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Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Tsunami Advisory Issued For Santa Barbara County After Chile Earthquake.

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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

With a sorry-ass choice between two circus acts running for president, why not at least make it entertaining? 7 People Who Would Make Better Presidential Debate Moderators Than Journalists.

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Watch It

Our Janene Scully is a Cat Person — not to be confused with a Cat Lady, which would just be weird.

She also was the reporter on just about every story I wrote about in this column so I know she’s on the brink of exhaustion. I’m too cheap to reward her with an actual spa day so, Janene, this one’s for you. Great work!

(RM Videos video)

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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