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Andy Wilcox, Register  

The Napa High football team’s only healthy quarterbacks all season have been sophomore Isaiah Newton, left, and senior Caden Cortese, and their healthy relationship could keep paying off in the future.

Federal officials promise prompt debris removal from Napa-area fires

Trucks could be on local roads within days hauling away the remains of wildfire-destroyed homes as a massive government waste removal program gets underway.

“We expect to start removing debris probably by this Friday on private property in Napa,” said Robert Fenton of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during a Monday evening meeting on the Atlas Fire.

But first, contractors must bring in equipment. As soon as Wednesday, mini-excavators, front-end loaders and haul trucks could go to staging areas, Fenton said. Residents can expect to experience added traffic and noise.

“Pretty soon, you’ll be tired of seeing trucks go up and down your roads,” Fenton told hundreds of Atlas Fire victims gathered in the Silverado Resort and Spa ballroom.

The government’s debris–hauling effort could finish early next year, depending on such factors as the weather, he said.

Robin Sisemore is among those who lost her house and attended the meeting. She evacuated amid the Atlas Fire after it broke out that windy night of Oct. 8. Her home had survived the 1981 Atlas Peak Fire and she had thought it would again.

“I had a lot of denial,” she said.

Now she faces the same choice as others at the Monday meeting – whether to hire someone to do the cleanup work or let the government do it.

Debris removal is taking place in two phases. Phase 1 is the removal of household hazardous waste such as pesticides, paints, ammunition and gasoline. Phase 2 is the removal of the bulk of the debris.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency is taking the lead on Phase 1. Unless people do the job themselves, the agency is removing household hazardous waste for free. People need sign no forms for that to happen, officials said.

EPA began household hazardous waste removal in Napa County last Friday, said Steve Catalog of the agency. As of Monday evening, it had already done 20 percent of the properties and had two more days of work in Silverado area.

“We’re moving very quickly,” he said.

The agency inspects the properties and leaves a sign saying a site is free of household hazardous waste. That clears the way for Phase 2: the removal of the bulk of the debris.

People can hire contractors at their own expense to do phase two debris removal. They might think this will, in some cases, allow them to start rebuilding more quickly, officials said.

Or they can let the government do the work at no cost to themselves, though they must give the government any insurance receipts they have due for fire debris removal.

“The good thing is, you have options,” said Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, who hosted the meeting in his supervisorial district.

They must choose quickly, though. Napa County and federal officials want them to submit the necessary paperwork for the government program by 5 p.m. Nov. 9. They can go to the county website at to find the form.

FEMA is partnering with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers on the government debris removal program using CalRecycle standards, Fenton said.

People at the Silverado meeting wanted to know what the government will remove. Fenton said the haul-away program includes foundations, automobiles, unusable swimming pools, standing chimneys, ashes, all the metals.

“We would literally bring the lot back to an acceptable testing level where you see just dirt,” Fenton said.

People who want to do the job themselves must have a contractor submit a work plan to the county. The plan must detail such things as proposals to control dust during debris removal and transportation, proposals for storm water pollution prevention and soil testing plans.

An audience member asked how long the county will take to approve such plans.

“If it’s complete, we will review the plan and approve it within 24 hours,” county Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison said.

The challenge might be finding contractors, he said. That’s because of the demand in the wake of fires that destroyed thousands of homes in Napa, Sonoma and surrounding counties.

Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said the preliminary cost estimate to fight the Atlas Fire is $51 million. He was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the scene after the blaze started at 9:52 p.m. Oct. 8.

Winds the night the fire broke out on Atlas Peak reached 40 mph and in some parts of the county reached 90 mph, Biermann said. The Tubbs Fire and Partrick Fire also broke out in Napa County that same night.

Within the first hour of the Atlas Fire, he placed an order for 100 fire engines, along with bulldozers, hand crews and firefighting aircraft after sunrise, Biermann said. Forty-three engines responded by morning amid a competition for resources, given the other fires.

The Atlas Fire had 450 people battling it on Oct. 9, Biermann said. This eventually grew to about 3,300 people and 225 engines.

That fire destroyed 462 homes, 304 outbuildings and 17 commercial buildings. It killed six people, he said.

Napa native searches for 'Secrets of the Underground'

As a child, Stefan Burns said he spent many hours watching the Science Channel programs on TV. Today, he’s gone from watching the channel to co-hosting a show on the Science Channel.

Burns, a Napa native, is the new co-host of the Science Channel series “Secrets of the Underground.”

“I never imaged that I was going to be one of the co-hosts of a TV show on the Science Channel,” said Burns, 26. “It’s a really incredible experience.”

On the show, Rob Nelson, described as an “explorer, adventurer biologist and tech fanatic” joins Burns, a geophysicist, dig deep into some of the world’s “most notorious underground legends.”

Those include the long-rumored Nazi Gold Train, America’s Atlantis, the Lost Temple of Jerusalem, Nikola Tesla’s buried master plans, and more, said news releases for the series.

The duo uses “cutting-edge technology to investigate and uncover the world’s most fascinating subterranean mysteries.”

The second season, featuring eight one-hour episodes, premiered last Saturday.

Burns’ path to TV began with his passion for science.

After about age 8, “I stopped watching cartoons and started watching the Science Channel a ton,” along with the Discovery and Animal Planet channels, he said. “I loved that stuff as a kid. I just gobbled it up.”

Eventually, he went on to take classes in geology at Napa Valley College and then transfer to UC Davis to study geology.

Graduating in 2014, Burns now works as a geophysicist for Subtronic Corporation, a subsurface utility engineering company based in the Bay Area.

A geophysicist measures different physical properties of the earth, including all the layers of the planet, Burns said.

When producers from Lucky 8 TV, the company that created “Secrets of the Underground,” asked Burns if he would volunteer to do some ground penetrating radar at Alcatraz, he jumped at the chance.

“This sounds amazing,” said Burns.

That episode centered on the search for secret escape tunnels that might have been located under the prison.

“It was fun,” he said of the 20-hour days between his day job and helping with the Alcatraz shoot. “But it was worth it.”

Burns later helped with other episodes, still as a volunteer.

By February 2016, his episodes were about to premier. To his surprise, Burns was featured much more prominently than he ever expected.

“I was blown away,” he said. “They really bumped up my involvement.”

Staying in touch with producers, Burns was then contacted in 2017 about working on “Secrets of the Underground” Season 2. This time, they wanted to know if he’d be the new co-host.

“I had no idea that was even a possibility,” he said. “That sounds amazing,” was his response.

“It was just such a cool opportunity to go travel around the world — for a TV show, no less — and get paid for it,” he said.

After signing a contract to be paid per episode, Burns was able to take time off from his day job and flew to the New York area for the first filming block of time.

Later, they traveled even farther afield – to Poland, Italy and Israel. He was gone for about a month, filming three episodes and spending about 10 days in each country.

It was hard work, but fun, Burns said. “These are 12-hour days, at a minimum,” he said. In total, he spent about three months filming the Season 2 episodes, in separate chunks of time between May and October.

“This season, we are globetrotting to go after the greatest secrets in history and using 21st century technology to do it, some of which has never been trained on these long thought unsolvable mysteries,” said Neil Laird, executive producer, of the Science Channel.

Technology used by the hosts includes LIDAR, a remote sensing method that uses lasers, ground-penetrating radar and 3-D imaging.

Some of the other underground “secrets” they studied include a “super volcano,” in Italy, an archaeological dig site in Israel dating back some 4,000 years and looking for lost temple treasures attributed to King Solomon.

“As a kid, I would have loved this show,” said Burns. “It’s an almost ‘Indian Jones’ style format but using these robust scientific principles and tools. You are learning quite a lot during the process.”

Burns said he wants “Secrets of the Underground” viewers to know that the scientific data collected is all real.

There’s no set script, he said. “For the most part, it’s very off the cuff as we go.”

For the Season 2 debut, Burns hosted a small viewing party with his mom and girlfriend at his home in Concord.

“It was a little weird,” seeing himself on TV like that, admitted Burns.

“I think I did good overall. I learned a lot from Rob Nelson,” he added. “My on-camera skills are definitely better at the end than at the beginning” of the filming.

Besides, “When they edit, they take out all the dorky parts.”

Now that he’s switched roles from viewer to co-host, Burns said it would be rewarding if, perhaps, he could inspire some curiosity or passion for science in someone else.

“I see that as a real good thing and a way to give back,” he said.

“Fingers are definitely crossed for a Season 3.”

Challenger of Napa bank merger changes his mind

A Florida man who challenged the merger of Bank of Napa with Bank of Marin has abruptly withdrawn his claim.

On Oct. 6, Paul Parshall filed a class-action complaint in the United States District Court Northern District of California.

Parshall alleged that the merger application for the two banks contained “false and misleading” statements and was missing important information.

On Oct. 20, just 14 days later, attorneys for Parshall voluntarily dismissed the claim.

During phone interviews on Tuesday morning, the president of each bank said he learned the news on Monday afternoon.

“Mr. Parshall voluntarily and unilaterally dropped his lawsuit, without payment of consideration by any party,” said Tom LeMasters, president and chief executive officer of Bank of Napa.

“We’re pleased that it’s been dismissed,” said Russ Colombo, president and CEO of the Bank of Marin.

Parshall said he didn’t know why his claim had been dismissed.

“If I knew I’d tell you,” Parshall said by phone on Tuesday morning. “I did not read the documentation yet about why it was dismissed.”

When asked if he was offered any kind of financial or other kind of settlement to end the claim, Parshall said, “I have to check with my lawyer.”

“This is one of many, many cases I have.”

Parshall is familiar with class-action lawsuits. He’s filed or been involved with more than 40 similar complaints in a variety of states including California, New York, Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Colorado and Utah.

Parshall owns 70 shares out of some 2.3 million shares of Bank of Napa stock. The value of Parshall’s stock is about $805.

The merger of the two banks was first announced in late July. The deal, worth $51 million, was set to close in the fourth quarter, according to a news release from the Bank of Napa.

Bank of Marin is the bigger entity in this acquisition. Bank of Marin had assets of $2.1 billion as of June 30, records show. It was founded in 1989.

Bank of Napa had assets of $246.1 million as of June 30, records show. It was founded in 2006.