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Pacific Union College float tied for Best of Show in the 2017 Annual Lighted Tractor Parade.

Winners of 2017 Annual Lighted Tractor Parade

Floats sponsored by Pacific Union College and Romeo Vineyards & Cellars tied for Best of Show at Saturday night’s Annual Lighted Tractor Parade in Calistoga.

Other winners:

— Pre-1960 Tractor: Chelsea Garden Inn

— 1960-Present Tractor: Pacific Union College

— Pre-1965 Utility Vehicle: St. Helena Fire Department

— Utility Vehicle or Truck: Davis Estates

— 1960-Present Construction Vehicle: Granite Construction Co. & Calistoga Hills

— Float: Romeo Vineyards & Cellars

— Youth Entry: Berryessa 4-H

Dept. of insurance accuses Wells Fargo of improper sales practices

The California Department of Insurance on Tuesday accused San Francisco-based Wells Fargo of improper insurance sales practices that led to insurance products being purchased for customers without their knowledge.

The accusation is the result of a department investigation that found that between 2008 and 2016, Wells Fargo customers were issued about 1,500 insurance policies and charged premiums without their knowledge or permission.

The state Department of Insurance is now seeking to suspend or revoke Wells Fargo’s licenses to transact personal insurance in California.

In a statement, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said that companies with such licenses have an obligation to act with integrity.

“When any producer violates consumer trust in the name of profit, it reflects poorly on the entire profession,” Jones said.

Department officials said that Wells Fargo is expected to file a Notice of Defense in response to the accusation.

This is not the first time Well Fargo has found itself in hot water. Just last year, the company paid $185 million to government regulators to settle claims that it opened more than 3 million fraudulent deposit and credit card accounts since 2009.

According to the Department of Insurance, Wells Fargo employees opened the unauthorized accounts as part of an incentive compensation program that indirectly encouraged improper sales practices and was not adequately overseen by bank management.

Californians reflect after fleeing homes as fire came close
Hundreds flee as fires randomly take, spare California homes

VENTURA — They ran for their lives by the thousands when the devastating wildfires raced across a huge swath of brush-covered Southern California hillsides, and they survived even if in many cases their homes didn't. Some lost everything. Others returned to find homes still standing but put in danger a second time when flames that had seemed to spare them returned. Others told of driving through a wall of flames to safety. Here are some of their stories.


Brian Bromberg and Wendy Frank had just saved their beloved horses from a raging wildfire for the second time when they experienced their own brush with death — for the third time.

The couple, who live in the mountainous artist colony of Ojai, had already escaped flames that had burned down neighbors' homes and had gone back to rescue their horses from a boarding facility when they were headed to a hotel in Santa Barbara on Wednesday night. Suddenly they were confronted by a wall of flames lining both sides of U.S. Highway 101.

"I thought we were in a Schwarzenegger movie," Bromberg, 57, recalled at the evacuation shelter in Ventura on Thursday as he comforted his horses.

"Literally we drove through a 20-foot wall of flame and embers and blew through it. We must have been going 100 miles per hour," Bromberg said. "That was hot, and we were in the car and could feel it."

Earlier Wednesday, the couple of five years was sitting down for dinner when Frank decided to check on their four horses. The pair had just left them at a boarding facility 10 miles from their home, where they thought they would be safe.

"I just had a feeling and I reached out to a man we know who lives close to where they were being housed and he said, 'You need to get here right away, you need to get them out. The whole area is going to be engulfed by fire,'" she said.

The couple raced to Ojai and got the horses out with minutes to spare.

The day before, Frank was on a business trip while Bromberg was home, using buckets of water to douse flames approaching the couple's ranch.

"The house on the other side of us lost a barn and an outbuilding, the place on the other side of us — the whole property burned down, and the place behind us was a wall of flames and I'm standing in the middle of this by myself with a bucket of water going to hotspots, pouring it out all day long and keeping the barn hosed with water," he said

Bromberg, a Grammy-nominated jazz musician, and Frank, a technology security expert at PricewaterhouseCoopers, say they plan to wait until they are certain their home is out of danger before returning.

"I feel blessed to be alive. Somebody is taking care of us," Bromberg said.


Steve Andruszkewicz and his neighbor Joseph Ruffner returned to their Faria Beach Colony homes just north of Ventura on Thursday to discover the flames that appeared to have spared the houses were threatening them once again.

"I thought we were done yesterday," Ruffner said, adding he and his family returned to their home in the morning to see a wall of fire that seemed to be a safe distance away. But then it moved in, spraying hot embers onto the neighborhood.

"It's coming back to burn what it didn't burn yesterday," he said.

Firefighters urged people to leave the beachfront community, where electricity was out.

"We're leaving," Andruszkewicz said as he and his wife sprayed palm trees with water from garden hoses first.

"We left Tuesday night and stayed down at our son's house," he continued. "We came back yesterday, stayed the night. (But) this has got me worried because of the blowing embers."

Ruffner said he was staying put this time.

"I bought a generator yesterday so at least I can see on TV what's going on," he said.


Marolyn Romero-Sim wept as she sat on a cot at an evacuation center recounting how the modest RV her family called home was destroyed by the largest and most destructive Southern California wildfire.

"Everything is ashes. Everything. We don't have a place to live. We lost stuff we can't get back," she said.

She said her husband, Hugo Romero-Rodriguez, was wracked with guilt that he couldn't get inside to rescue anything — including their beloved little dog, Coqueta. She was trapped in a crate inside when the vehicle erupted in flames. Romero-Rodriguez suffered cuts on his leg and hand and a burn on his arm trying to get inside to save Coqueta.

"He was sitting there in the driver's seat and he couldn't move," Romero-Sim said Wednesday, recalling how she, her husband and their 9-year-old daughter, Milagros, sat in their truck, watching the RV burn before finally realizing they had to flee their Ventura County neighborhood.

"He just kept watching and he feels so guilty that he couldn't save it," she continued. "I told him he did everything he could and he did what he had to save our lives."

Romero-Rodriguez makes a modest living as a jewelry salesman and he lost the pearls, earrings, bracelets and watches that made up his inventory.

Downtown Napa debuts Lighted Art Festival for 9 nights

Napa and the Napa Tourism Improvement District have joined forces to bring the first Lighted Art Festival to downtown.

The illuminating art festival will light up the streets, buildings and nighttime sky while animated art work is projected onto a variety of buildings throughout downtown and the Oxbow District. Nine original art works will brighten the night sky for nine days.

The displays, accompanied by music, can be enjoyed after dark nightly from 5–10 p.m. beginning Saturday and running through Sunday, Dec. 17.

The buildings included in the inaugural festival include: CIA at Copia, 500 First St.; Winship Building, 942 Main St.; Uptown Theatre, 1350 Third St.; First Presbyterian Church, 1333 Third St.; Riverfront building, 700 Main St.; Riverfront Promenade at Historic Napa Mill, Fifth Street; Napa River Inn, 500 Main St., and Napa Valley College Performing Art Center, 2277 Napa-Vallejo Highway. 

The artists who have contributed their lighted art displays to this festival include David Sullivan, Cecil Lossy and Eddy McLay, Marissa Carlisle, Geoffrey Hicks, Festival of Lights Berlin, Ross Ashton, Courtney Egan, Andrew Wade Smith, and Hugh Livingston.

For more information and to download a map of the buildings that will feature lighted art, visit

Cal Fire: Napa woman arrested on suspicion of starting Lake Berryessa fires

A Napa woman was arrested on suspicion of arson Wednesday morning after officials allege she started wildfires near the north end of Lake Berryessa, according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire officials said that the woman, Debra Ann Windholz, 59, is not responsible for any fires related to the wildfires that began Oct. 8, devastating areas of Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties.

Officials said they did not have additional details about when the fires Windholz is suspected of starting occurred, how she may have started them and the damage, if any, they caused.

Windholz was arrested and booked at the Napa County on suspicion of 11 counts of arson to forest land. She is being held on $500,000 bail.

“Arson of any type” will not be tolerated and suspected arsonists will be tracked down, officials said in a news release.

Suspicious activity should be reported to local law enforcement agencies. Tips may also be submitted through the Cal Fire Arson Hotline at 1-800-468-4408.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens Monday as President Donald Trump announces that the United States will designate North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington.

Sasha Paulsen, Register 

Holiday decor fills the Ackerman Heritage House in Napa as it hosts Victorian tea parties in December. 

Officials recommend red abalone fishing season shut down

SANTA CRUZ — California wildlife officials are recommending the 2018 season for red abalone fishing be shut down due to concerns about declining populations.

The Mercury News reports Wednesday the California Department of Fish and Wildlife made the recommendation after a survey revealed 37 percent of all abalone recorded were dead.

Fish and Game Commission will make the final decision Thursday at a meeting in San Diego.

Fish and Wildlife senior scientist Laura Roger-Bennett says shells empty or filled with decaying flesh littered the seafloor and that the outlook for the abalone is bleak

The mollusks are being affected by a massive kelp die-off. Red abalone feed on kelp and cannot reproduce as easily when facing starvation.

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