First Came the Fires, Now the Rains | Disasters x 2



On January 5, 2018, Santa Barbara County began flooding (pardon the pun) Social Media and broadcasting to its citizens of impending dangers of increased risk of flood/debris flows due to the #ThomasFire. 

Credit: County of Santa Barbara


CAL FIRE is assisting Ventura County Fire Department and Santa Barbara County Fire in the Montecito, Summerland and Carpenteria areas (Santa Barbara County) due to flooding and mudflows.


Evacuation orders were issued on Sunday, January 7th for those living in or near the Thomas, Whittier, Sherpa and Rey Fire burn scars at noon on Monday, January 8th.  This is due to an approaching winter storm to sure to greatly impact these areas.

Alerting the Public, residents and visitors alike. Credit: Santa Barbara City OES


Closures were beginning to occur as flooding in the area were rising.  The CHP closed the NB lanes of US 101 at Seacliff & SB lanes at Milpas due to flooding from the Thomas Fire burn area.  I-5 was left open as an alternate route.  SR33 was also closed just north of Ojai.  Santa Barbara CHP was still assessing damage in the area and requested all drivers avoid this area altogether. (1/9/2018 0515 Hours PST)

Montecito area. Santa Barbara CHP

It was also said for Santa Barbara County residents in the evacuation warning and order areas to shelter-in-place or go to higher ground and staying off of roadways.  Reports of mudslides, downed power lines and trees were said to be blocking roads. (1/9/2018 0602 Hours PST)

Montecito area. Credit: Santa Barbara CHP

The Santa Barbara CHP closed all on and off ramps of US 101 between Seacliff and Milpas.  CAL Trans District 5 was in the process of closing each ramp.  They stated that there was a delay for road crews due to blockage.  They warned drivers that if they entered either section, they could be trapped. (1/9/0218 0643 Hours PST)

Around 0832 Hours PST, the CHP updated the closure list to include US 101 as closed SB at Milpas, NB at Seacliff and SR 126.  SR 33 was closed at Fairview. SR 150 was closed at Santa Ana.  

Montecito area. Credit: Santa Barbara CHP

Later the CHP closed US 101 between Milpas and SR 126.  Drivers not heeding the CHP’s alerts about not entering the freeway were being reported getting stuck.  Signage was not in shutdown areas because transportation crews weren’t able to get them up in time as they too were stuck.  The freeway was listed as being impassable. (1/9/2018 1054 Hours PST)

Credit: Santa Barbara CHP

Freeways and roads in the Montecito area were reported as blocked with water and debris over the roadways.  The photos taken  by Santa Barbara CHP show the extensive damage and devastating impacts in the area.  Please heed all warnings and alerts from issuing Public Safety broadcasts or you too come became an unwanted and preventable statistic!  (1/9/2018 1336 Hours PST)


The Red Cross has opened an evacuation shelter for the Burn Evacuation Order areas at the Santa Barbara City College Cafeteria.  Access through the main college entrance. (1/8/2018 0750 Hours PST)

The large animal evacuation shelter for the Burn Areas Evacuation Order is at the Earl Warren Show Grounds.


* ALWAYS be ALERT and AWARE of your surroundings. 

Credit: CAL FIRE

* Stay away from fast moving water.  Though it may not look like it, it can pull you under or you could get injured by unseen hazards underwater.

Credit: Regional Flood


We are using hashtags #LARain #FireRainDamage 

(c) 2018 NW Fire Blog


UPDATE 2 |Hurricane #Patricia Downgraded


Great News!

Hurricane #Patricia is weakening slowly and therefore has been downgraded from a Category 5 to a 4, but sill remains extremely dangerous as a major Hurricane over Mexico with min pressure of 946 mb and max sustained at 130 mph with higher gusts of winds.

The Hurricane is said to have made landfall around 0615 local time.

No injuries or specific damage reports have been received yet.

Hurricane #Patricia as of 0325 UTC or 2025 PDT on 10/23/15 [Courtesy of NOAA GOES East Imagery Sattelite]

Hurricane #Patricia as of 0325 UTC or 2025 PDT on 10/23/15 [Courtesy of NOAA GOES East Imagery satellite]


A Public  Advisory  given by NWS website at 0300 UTC or 2200 CDT state the Hurricane is moving 20 mph NNE.  It is now located 85 miles NNW of Manzanillo and 50 miles SE of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.




Hurricane Warning:  San Blas to Punta San Telmo.

Tropical Storm Warning:  East of Punta San Telmo to Lzaro Cardenas and N of San Blas to El Roblito.


The following States are on alert or have been impacted:

  • Aguacalentes
  • Colima
  • Durango
  • Mexico State
  • Guanajuato
  • Guerrero
  • Michogcan
  • Nayarit
  • Zactecas
  • Jalisco*

*  34 Municipalities in Jalisco have declared a state of emergency


The Weather Service expect #Patricia will become a tropical storm tomorrow and a tropical depression in the afternoon.



Rainfall from Hurricane #Patricia is still expected to fall to accumulations of 8-12″ with  a max total of 20″ in isolated areas.  Heavy rainfall is due to impact Mexican States: Nayant, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero through Saturday.

With this amount of rainfall, this could produce life-threatening flooding and mud slides.


They are asking the Amateur Radio communities to keep 14,120 kHz and 21,120 kHz clear for possible emergency traffic. Emergency net has been established on 7060.


Hurricane #Patricia. [Courtesy of NWS]

Hurricane #Patricia. [Courtesy of NWS]


We will be providing  Updates gleaned from Social Media and on the internet.

If you feel we may have missed something, please let us know.  You can reach us on Twitter @nwfireblog or drop us a line at

Storm Updates – Facebook Page “Hurricane Patricia” – Moderator:  Peter Corless.  The Page lists updates regarding the weather, Embassy info for UK residents, Preparations and personal commentaries by its members. 26 members to date.

Travel within Mexico

@fema : U.S. citizens traveling in Mexico, you can follow these for more information on Hurricane #Patricia. If you’re a US citizen traveling in Mexico, you can follow  @usembassyMEX, @travelgov @statedept .

Safe and Well Reporting

American Red Cross has a Safe and Well website you can register to let loved ones know you are safe and well or you can search friends and family on this website.  Here is the link –>

Message Board for the La Manzanilla Community


We will continue to monitor the weather, status of the Hurricane and all other weather related damage assessment, injuries, etc.


The Mexican people are in our thoughts and prayers as this Hurricane is directly impacting them. First Responders, be safe out there. We are thinking of you all.

(c) 2015 The #NWFireBlog

Social Media:  @nwfireblog / Twitter — The NW Fire Blog / Facebook



 DAY 4

Pam is not stopping any time soon.  She is keeping up with her relentless beating and battering of those who choose to stay behind and destroy anything that may stand in her way.


  • Upgraded from a Category 4 to a 5.
  • Winds are at 45km East NE of Maewo, Vanuatu
  • Inspacts the Solomon Islands, Kirbati, and Tuvalu creating serious damage
  • Homes are lost, major road damage is reported as power/communication outages by Humanity Road
  • Vanuatu has 80 smaller islands begins to prepare for the worst.

The above picture is that of incoming high tides affecting Arorae Island, one of the outer islands of Kiribati.

  • Reports of 15m or 49.21 foot waves were reported by local weather service station.
  • Widespread of damage and destruction is being reported through Social Media.


Embedded image permalink

Note: Time on photo is showing not the same as the post due to a huge Time Zone difference.

Please “Follow” Us on our Social Media Sites

@nwfireblog [Twitter] – The NW Fire Blog [Facebook] [Flickr] [Tumblr]

OR Drop Us a Line…

Sources:  NOAA, Humanity Road, Twitter.

[c] 2015 The NW Fire Blog



Tropical Cyclone Pam aka #TCPam is only getting started……


#TCPam begins to move from the SE to Vanuatu and Fiji.


  • #TCPam is moving towards a Category 4 Cyclone


The people who live in Kiribati are strong and have endured many hardships but they do ask for help from the rest of the world. To see this type of destruction in their Country is overwhelming and heartbreaking.

The roadway is quickly swallowed up by the ocean lapping at the sides, smashing it apart.

Photo Credit: Kiribati Abau Ni Koaua

This is the Nippon Causeway that links Betio and Bairiki Islets on Tarawa Kiribati, the only road into and out of the area.  The ocean has washed up sand, gravel and big rocks.

Photo Credit: Kiribati Abau Ni Koaua

Large potholes have made it difficult to drive on.  Some drivers have stayed home to work on building/rebuilding the sea walls destroyed by the crashing waves.

The underlining portion of the roadway is swallowed up by the ocean. [Photo Credit: Kiribati Abau Ni Koaua]

 This is by far the worst damage they have suffered and it’s only beginning.

Photo Credit: Kiribati Abau Ni Koaua

Vehicles do the best they can by driving slowly over the severely damaged roadway that only leads one way in and out of this area.


NASA adds,

“On March 10, TRMM saw thunderstorms northwest of the Santa Cruz Islands was dropping rain at a rate of over 158 mm (6.2 inches) per hour and cloud tops reached heights above 16 km (9.9 miles).”

[See Image Below]

Image Credit: NASA/JAXA/SSAI, Hal Pierce [Photo Captured March 10, 2015]

 NASA stated,

“On March 10, TRMM saw thunderstorms northwest of the Santa Cruz Islands was dropping rain at a rate of over 158 mm (6.2 inches) per hour and cloud tops reached heights above 16 km (9.9 miles).”

[See image below]

TRMM sees thunderstorms in Pam

Image Credit: NASA/JAXA/SSAI, Hal Pierce [Photo Captured March 10, 2015]


Life is still getting worse for the people of Kiribati and the damage continues.  We are working on getting more information regarding shelters, resources as we move from day-to-day postings.

Follow us on our Social Media sites for updates, resources and how you can #BeAHero for those who really need the assistance out there.

Please “Follow” Us on our Social Media Sites

@nwfireblog [Twitter] – The NW Fire Blog [Facebook] [Flickr] [Tumblr]

OR Drop Us a Line…

Sources:  NASA, Kiribati Abau Ni Koaua, Twitter.

[c] 2015 The NW Fire Blog



Tropical Cyclone Pam aka #TCPam has been deemed one of the worst storms to hit the area brutally battering the Vanuatu and devastating other areas in the South Pacific Ocean.

Here’s a recap of what’s happened in the region at the time of #TCPam formed and launching herself on to the areas in the South Pacific.

About Kiribati, The Island

#TCPam’s New Target

  • Kiribati, an Island Nation located centrally in the Pacific Ocean.
  • The nation is comprised of 33 atoll and reef islands; one raised coral reef, Banaba. It has a 310-square mile land area that is dispersed over a 1,351,100 square miles.
  • They became independent of the UK in 1979.
  • Law Enforcement is carried out by the Kiribati Police Service which has a station on each Island.  They have one police boat.  No other LE resources.
  • The Nation has no Military force and relies heavily on both Australia and New Zealand for its defense.

The People Cry Out for Help

Cries for help from the people of Kiribati begin to surface. After a severe drought, with no clean drinking water and unsanitary conditions, they begin to report water rising up their low-lying shores into their Villages. They ask for help on where to evacuate to as there are no mountains, other high-rise buildings as they live in a low-lying flat area.

About Kiribati’s Capital – “Tarawa”

  • South part of the Capital experiencing strong winds, with high seas
  • Most of the sea walls constructed by MaCDow have been destroyed
  • Roads are covered with sand, gravel and big stones
  • Residential homes along the Coast are being greatly affected by strong waves
  • Their wells that are solely for drinking water have turned to saline & are no longer viable
  • Main food plants breadfruit, pawpaw, etc have been affected, difficult to get
  • One road leads in and out of Coastal Island Kiribati

Photo Credit Kirbati Abau Ni Koaua [Taken on March 9, 2015]

Photo Credit Kirbati Abau Ni Koaua [Taken on March 9, 2015]

  • Some of the residents that live in Kiribati who are licensed drivers are in fear and have stayed home. They don’t want to drive through the salty sea waters or be hit by them. They are staying put to try to build new sea walls to protect their homes.

NASA’s Captures #TCPam’s Wrath

 ” #TCPam formed in the Solomon Islands in the Southern Pacific Ocean early on March 9. The Global Precipitation Measurement or GPM core satellite flew overhead and found some heavy rain occurring when it measured rainfall rates within the intensifying storm.

GPM is managed by both NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. From its orbit in space, the GPM satellite has the ability to measure the rates in which rain is falling in storms. GPM passed over newborn Tropical Cyclone Pam on March 9 at 05:01 UTC (1:01 a.m. EST). GPM identified heavy rainfall in excess of 1.4 inches (35.5 mm) per hour in a fragmented bands of thunderstorms north of Pam’s center of circulation.

MODIS image of Pam

Image Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team [Photo Captured March 9, 2015]

 At 1500 UTC (11 a.m. EST) on March 9, #TCPam’s maximum sustained winds were near 45 knots (51.7 mph/83.3 kph). Pam was moving to the southeast at 3 knots (3.4 mph/5.5 kph). It was centered near 8.5 south latitude and 169.8 east longitude, about 760 nautical miles (874.6 miles/1,408 km) northwest of Nadi, Fiji.” – says Rob Gutro, NASA’s Goodard Space Flight Center.

Weather Alerts Begin to Flood Social Media

  • “While a direct hit isn’t likely, Cyclone Pam is likely to brush the North Island Sun – Tues.” –
  • “Update Tropical Low now Tropical CyclonePam 995hPa Category 1 near 8.4S169.8E at 090600UTC moving ESE.” – @cbemergency

Fiji Government Issues Alert

Photo Credit: @FijiGov_FMDNDM

“Note: the past cyclone track may be adjusted on the basis of later information. The forecast track is considered the most likely based on the information available at time of analysis, and there may be other possible future tracks.” – Fiji Government


Warning: Gales or stronger within 24 hours Very Destructive Hurricane Force Winds
Alert: Gales or stronger within 24-48 hours Destructive Storm Force Winds
Damaging Gale Force Winds

“For the 24 hr and 48 hr positions, the three radii represent the extent of Hurricane, Storm and Gale winds away from the centre.

Name: Severe Tropical Cyclone PAM
Situation At: 1200 UTC Saturday 14 March 2015
Location: 24.4S, 171.0E
Recent Movement: SSE at 44 km/h

Fiji time is UTC +12 hours.

For example, 0000 UTC Saturday is 1200 Saturday Fiji time.
For example, 1800 UTC Saturday is 0600 Sunday Fiji time.

Category Cyclone 1 has mean winds 34-47 knots with a central pressure greater than 985 hPa
Category Cyclone 2 has mean winds 48-63 knots with a central pressure 985-970 hPa
Category Cyclone 3 has mean winds 64-85 knots with a central pressure 970-945 hPa
Category Cyclone 4 has mean winds 86-107 knots with a central pressure 945-910 hPa
Category Cyclone 5 has mean winds greater than 107 knots with a central pressure less than 910 hPa” – Fiji Government

Country Getting Prepared

  • The National Disaster Management Council meets at NDMO HQ.
  • Vanuatu activates emergency plans at Cat5 is pridicted.
  • All schools in Northern, Eastern and Western Divisions are closed for the next day.


We will be sharing updates from various sources and hope you’ll follow along with us to see what’s happening in various parts of the World, sharing those whom are affected and how we can show compassion through giving, praying and helping wherever we can.

Please “Follow” Us on our Social Media Sites

@nwfireblog [Twitter] – The NW Fire Blog [Facebook] [Flickr] [Tumblr]

OR Drop Us a Line…

Sources:  NASA, Kiribati Abau Ni Koaua, Humanity Road, Fiji Government, Twitter

[c] 2015 The NW Fire Blog

River Rescue on Swollen Eel River in Fortuna, California

West of Fortuna, CA | Scanner feed is reporting two persons trapped in a tree, mid-river on the swollen Eel River just West of Fortuna, California.

Fortuna Fire and the Sheriff’s Office is reportedly on scene.  An U.S. Coast Guard helo is airborne with an approximate arrival time of 20 minutes.

This original call was dispatched 0105 PST.


[c] 2015 The NW Fire Blog

#BREAKING# MT. Shasta Mud Slide in Shasta-Trinity National Forest


View from Pilgrim Creek Bridge {Photo Courtesy: inciweb]

View from Pilgrim Creek Bridge {Photo Courtesy: inciweb]


  • Shasta-Trinity NF
  • SE side of MT Shasta
  • Mud Creek Canyon
  • Mud crossed over Pilgrim Creek Rd

9/20/14 – Saturday

  • Flood
  • Debris flow into Mud Creek Canyon
  • 1500 hours – mud slide occurred
  • Monitored by USFS personnel
  • Flow continued until 1800 hours

9/21/14 – Sunday

  • 0800 hours – flows receding


  • Pilgrim Creek Rd
  • FS Rd 311


  • Hwy 89 open
  • Highway may be impacted


  • Expecting more rain
  • May cause more slides in area


  • Residents, Visitors are being discouraged from visiting the area
  • Do Not Attempt to Drive through Flood Impacted waters and mud

(c) 2014 The NW Fire Blog


The King County Flood Warning Center opened at 9 a.m. on Sunday, March 16, after heavy rainfall brought the Tolt River up to a Phase II flood alert level. Only minor flooding is expected.

 As of 9 a.m. on Sunday, the Tolt River at Carnation recorded a flow of approximately 3,500 cubic feet per second (CFS), just at the Phase II flood alert threshold. Typically, only minor flooding in low-lying areas would be expected along the Tolt River at these flows, with the potential for water over just a few roads.

 A Phase II flood alert level is the level of the County’s four-phase warning system at which the Flood Warning Center activates to monitor conditions. The Flood Warning Center will remain open as long as flood conditions persist.

 Flood Warning Center staff will monitor stream gages and weather reports, and will provide updated information on river conditions as necessary. Real-time river level information is available online at

 King County offers everyone free access to KC Flood Alerts, an automated system that allows subscribers to receive customized alerts of potential flooding for any or all of King County’s six major river systems.

 Immediate notifications about pending high water are sent to email, smart phone text or voicemail, providing subscribers with the maximum amount of warning about potential high water.

Find the KC Flood Alerts link at This website is a valuable preparedness resource, with all of the latest information about river levels and road conditions, plus weather reports and other critical links.

 Updated information on flooding will also be posted on the King County website, and via RPIN, the area’s regional emergency information website at

 During river flooding events, King County serves as a clearinghouse for information on flood conditions, operating a recorded message center with continuous updates of river gage readings and flood phases and other related information. Reach the Flood Warning Center at 206-296-8200 or 1-800-945-9263. Interpreter assistance in multiple languages is available.

 Questions or assistance with flooding on smaller streams or urban drainage problems can be called in to 206-296-1900 during business hours, or 206-296-8100 after hours or on weekends.

 Problems on County maintained roads can be reported by calling 206-296-8100 or 1-800-KC-ROADS.


2014 The NW Fire Blog

Tis the Season To Be Jolly and Careful With Your Money

As we all know it, terrible events are happening all over the world and we want to help these organizations that are assisting areas hit the hardest by disasters with donations and other goods.  The Seasons are fast approaching as well, as we have been contacted by phone or visited in person requesting us to give, but some are just plain scams.

Here is what the Washington State Attorney General’s Office states on how to spot a scam in the making and how we can protect ourselves.


This scam usually starts with a phone call from a con posing as a grandchild in urgent need of money. Other victims have reported receiving phone calls from scammers posing as police officers or attorneys. In every case, the con says money needs to be sent immediately by Western Union or Moneygram.


  • You’re asked to send money quickly – and secretly.
  • The call or message originates from overseas. However, you should be aware that technology allows scammers to bypass caller ID systems.
  • The person can’t or won’t answer questions that the only the real person would know.
  • Any time someone asks you to send money by Western Union or Moneygram, it’s invariably a scam. You might also be asked to send a check or money order by overnight delivery. Con artists recommend these services so they can steal your money before you realize you’ve been cheated. Money transfers can be picked up at any service location as long as the thief/recipient has the confirmation number.


  • Avoid volunteering information over the phone. Always ask callers to identify themselves by name and ask individuals who contact you to provide information that only you and people close to you would know.
  • Call the friend or relative claiming to need your help to confirm whether the story is true, using a phone number you know to be genuine. If you aren’t able to contact the person, call other friends or family members to confirm the situation.
  • Refuse to send money via wire transfer.
  • If you have wired money and it hasn’t been picked up yet, call the wire transfer service to cancel the transaction. Once the money has been picked up, there is no way to get it back.
  • Trust your gut.


Many people in our country, especially seniors, care deeply about others, and they want to do something good for those who are less fortunate. Unbelievably, criminals will use these altruistic feelings to feather their own nests. These con criminals will make you think you are giving to a good cause but the result is that the money goes to them.

The Opening Pitch
The mail and phone calls are often used in many scams seeking donations for everything from helping disabled veterans, to aiding injured animals, to feeding orphans in Africa, to lobbying Congress about Social Security. A common ploy is to take a current news event such as a natural disaster and claim to be collecting for that cause.

The Presentation
The presentation is quite simple: the mailer or caller describes the charity or cause in vivid detail, making it seem worthy. The pitch may play on your feelings of guilt over the crisis or your desire to help others.

The Result
It is often difficult to determine after the fact if the donation you made was to a bonafide charity and if the money actually got to the cause that was presented. Some charitable fundraisers keep over 80 percent of the money they raise.

How to Avoid It
The best thing you can do before you give to any charity is to find out how much of the money you give goes to the charitable purpose and how much goes to the cost of fundraising. You can do this by asking the charity when they call or by contacting the Secretary of State’s office and asking for the registration number and financial reports for the charity in question.

Some charity minded people develop their own annual charity-giving plan. They select charities after investigating them thoroughly. As part of the plan, they decide how much and to whom they will give each year and then say no thank you when other charities call or write during the balance of the year. This strategy allows the givers to know where their money is going and to avoid being drawn in by a phony emotional appeal.


In this scam, you receive a call, email or letter — usually from a foreign country — telling you about a way to select winning lottery numbers, and you need to call a toll-free number to find out more. There is no need to call that number. All the con criminal has is a winning way to take your money.

Grabbing Your Attention
Congratulations! You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000 in cash! That’s right, lump sum and tax-free, it must be your lucky day! Hundreds of people win every week using our secret system! You can win too!

Their Muddied up Facts
There are multiple variations, but a typical presentation is that you respond to a letter in the mail by calling a toll-free number. The person on the other end of the line, whose voice is filled with excitement, says something like, “Today is your lucky day! The company has reserved numbers for you.” They imply that you will get the winning numbers that will allow you to collect $400,000 (the number varies). All you have to do to claim this winning number is wire transfer a “processing fee.”

The End Result
The result is you wire the money to Canada or Spain or the Virgin Islands and you never receive your check for $400,000 nor do you ever hear from them again.

How to Save Yourself
Ask yourself one simple question when you hear this pitch, if a company or anyone had the ability to select the winning lottery number, why would they give it to you for a fraction of the winnings? Even though it seems like no one would fall for this, thousands and thousands of people do fall for it each year throughout the U.S. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has these words of caution for consumers who are thinking about responding to a foreign lottery:

  • There are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries. Your chances of winning more than the cost of your tickets are slim to none;
  • If you purchase one foreign lottery ticket, you can expect many more bogus offers for lottery or investment “opportunities.” Your name will be placed on “sucker lists” that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell; and
  • Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Con criminals often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch. Scammers will use this type of information to empty your bank accounts.


Each year when the weather turns nice, itinerant crews of roofers, pavers and day laborers travel from city to city, driving through neighborhoods and mobile home parks looking for victims. Sometimes they “offer” to pave your driveway, repair your roof, or paint your house with supplies “left over” from another job.

This is just a scam. The repair work is completed very quickly, the quality is poor and the “repairs” usually cost more than the original estimate.

Warning Signs:

  • The repairperson drives an unmarked truck or van with an out-of-state license;
  • The worker has no business identification, local address or telephone number;
  • You are offered a “special price” if you sign today;
  • The worker wants upfront cost or fees, or accepts only cash;
  • No written estimates or contracts are provided;
  • The worker does not have any references;
  • The offer sounds “too good to be true.”

Generally, work that “adds to or subtracts from real estate” requires a registered contractor. Businesses that provide services such as gutter cleaning, pruning, lawn care or window washing do not need to be registered.

If you are planning to hire a contractor, make sure the contractor is registered and bonded. Check the contractor’s references. Solicit several written bids.


According to research by AARP, senior citizens are the fastest growing segment of the Internet community. It is estimated that 27.3 million seniors are Internet users, up from 10.7 million in 1999.

Seniors say that keeping in touch with others remains the top reason for using the Internet. But seniors increasingly are turning to their computers to shop and conduct business.

And people 50 and older are an increasingly popular target for marketers. Unfortunately, some of those people are con criminals who use the Internet to scam millions from unsuspecting victims. Given the newness of the Internet, these scams continue to develop and grow.


In this scam, the criminal contacts you with a great investment plan. While the specific details of the plan can vary depending on who is delivering the pitch, one thing is certain: it is a bad investment for everyone but the criminal.

Their Approach
There are many approaches to selling investments. One example is to offer a free analysis of your investment portfolio. Others have sent out mailers offering incredible returns on such investments as gold coins, promissory notes secured by deeds of trust and even something called “viaticals,” which literally is buying the payments on a life insurance policy for someone who is about to die.

The Sales Pitch
The presentations always talk about three things: your return or profit on the investment, how safe it is, and how easily can you get your principle back if you need it.

The pitches often tie into something going on in the news. So for instance, when there is a war or some kind of international unrest, the con criminal will exploit that to sell gold coins, saying something like, “Mr. Prospect, during periods of economic unrest, what kind of investment can you count on? You cannot count on the stock market or the financial markets. The one thing that will be there for you, no matter what, is precious metals and there is no more precious metal than good, old-fashioned gold.”

Therefore, the scammer sells you a gold coin for $3,000 that he bought for $300 and claims it will be worth $6,000 in five years.

Being Pro-active
Consider following the three C’s before you make a buying decision: compare, consider and consult:

  • Compare: Whenever an investment salesperson presents an opportunity to you, before you buy, compare that investment to other opportunities from other firms. So for instance, before you invest in a money market certificate at one bank, compare the rates at two other banks.
  • Consider: Never make a buying decision at the time of the sales pitch. Always give yourself time to consider whether it is a good deal.
  • Consult: While you are considering the investment, consult with someone whose opinion you trust and find out what they think of the investment.


The living trust scam attempts to get you to purchase a trust. It plays on the fear that probate costs and estate taxes will erode the value of your estate. While living trusts can be a useful tool for some, many unscrupulous sales persons use it to simply get in the door and sell high-commission investments to consumers, whether or not it is the best thing for them.

The Marketing Ploy

“Do you want to leave a legacy for your grandchildren and not have the government take all the money you have spent a lifetime saving? Come to a free seminar to learn how.”

The Pitch
You respond to such a mailer, phone call or advertisement by attending a workshop. Or you might call to find out about it and someone will come out to your home to present information. They will sign you up for a living trust by having you fill out forms that disclose all of your financial assets. Once they have seen your finances, they begin to recommend different investments, usually insurance type products like annuities, in order to earn high commissions off the sale of those products.

The End Result
Sometimes the living trust document you buy is not filled out properly because lawyers are not doing it. If these documents are filled out improperly, you may end up going through probate anyway, the very thing you were told you could avoid. In addition, many older people end up buying investments that are not appropriate for them given their situation.

Being Safe
If you want to know if a living trust will truly help you, you should get the advice of an estate-planning attorney. You can find the name and phone number for such an attorney by calling your local bar association, lawyer referral service.


In this scam, the con criminal makes you think you have won a great prize or sweepstakes. However, there is a catch: to claim your prize, you need to pay some fee or purchase some merchandise. There is no prize, and the criminal pockets the fee.

Sweepstakes scams usually start with an over-sized envelope in the mail. It will have your name printed all over the material as being a potential (or an actual) winner. Such direct mail letters will often have the pictures of past winners describing how wonderful their lives are now that they are millionaires.

In another variation, a fraudulent telemarketer may call your home and tell you, in the most excited voice imaginable, that you have won a big prize. He or she may say something like this: “Congratulations, you are our big prize winner in our biggest prize giveaway ever.”

Misleading Facts
As you read further in these mailers, you realize they are selling merchandise of all kinds. The message is clear: the more merchandise you buy, the more likely your chances of winning. While the mailings do not directly say this, they definitely imply strongly that your chances of winning increase as you buy more merchandise.

In the telephone version, the criminal will tell you that in order to claim your prize, all you need to do is to send in a cashier’s check or your credit card number to cover a small fee associated with handling and delivery, postage, insurance, foreign taxes, or some other false reason.

The End Result
Many, many consumers and especially older consumers have been hooked on these scams, often spending thousands of dollars on merchandise they did not really need but thought would improve their chances of winning. What hooks many people into habitually being duped with these scams is the dream of winning. They think, “Maybe this time I really did win.”

Digging a Financial Hole
The key thing to remember about sweepstakes is the chances of you winning are about the same as being struck by a bolt of lightning. Buying merchandise from a company that uses sweepstakes as a promotion does not improve your chances of winning. Furthermore, it is illegal for any company to require you to make a purchase or spend money in order to play the sweepstakes they are running.


“Congratulations! You are one of our lucky winners for a week-long luxury vacation to the beautiful and sunny beaches of Puerto Vallarta.”

If you receive a phone call, email or postcard like this, you may have just been targeted for a travel sweepstakes scam. Older adults are common targets since they have more disposable income and travel a lot– but anyone can be a victim.

So before you give up your credit card number, dial for reservations, or respond to an enticing email use extreme caution.

The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission offer the following five clues you might be the victim of a travel sweepstakes scam:

  • You must make a purchase or send a “service fee” to receive the prize: Legitimate sweepstakes never require you to make a purchase or pay a fee to claim your prize. Never give your credit card or banking information over the phone. Never wire money or send checks or money orders to claim your prize.
  • It’s hard to tell who is giving you the prize:  Sponsors of legitimate contests or sweepstakes clearly identify themselves. They also provide a number or address you can use to request removal from their mailing list.
  • Terms of the promotion are nowhere to be found: Legitimate contests and promotions include lots of disclaimers, terms and conditions–including the rules and odds of winning.
  • It’s a bulk rate postcard: It’s a no-brainer, but if you truly won a big prize, you likely would not be notified by bulk rate mail.
  • The promoter uses a well-known brand-name to add legitimacy: It’s illegal for a promoter to misrepresent an affiliation with — or endorsement by — a government agency or other well-known organization or company.

If you receive a travel sweepstakes scam, report it to the Attorney General’s Office using our “File a Complaint” form or call our Consumer Resource Center at 1.800.551.4636 (Washington only).


OLYMPIA — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman are teaming up to warn consumers about a troubling practice by some individuals who solicit donations near retail stores on behalf of charities.

The Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and the Office of Secretary of State’s (OSOS) Charities Program are aware of potentially illegal actions taken by these solicitors.

Increasingly, the solicitors are asking for charity donations outside of retail stores. The solicitors often set up a table at a store entrance or exit. They ask for small cash, check, debit or credit card donations. In most instances, the solicitors will offer small trinkets for a donation. They state that donations will go toward various charitable purposes, such as helping sick or disabled children, animals, battered women, or to support well-known charitable organizations.

The AGO Consumer Protection Division and the OSOS Charities Program have reason to believe the solicitors personally pocket most of the money instead of giving it to the intended charity.

“Unfortunately, not all solicitors are reputable,” said Ferguson. “Check before giving to a charity so you can confirm your money is going to help a good cause, not line someone’s wallet.”

“These solicitors are taking money away from legitimate charities, so we want citizens and retailers to be aware of this emerging problem and avoid being scammed,” Wyman said.

Many of these practices violate the Charitable Solicitations Act (RCW 19.09) and the state’s Consumer Protection Act (RCW 19.86). The Attorney General’s Office has civil enforcement authority of both laws.

Wyman says charities need to register with the Charities Program, with some exceptions. However, she cautions that a registration with the Charities Program is not an endorsement of the solicitor, or his or her charity, nor is it an assurance that the solicitor is complying with the law.

“People can’t assume that every charity registered with our program operates legally or in good faith. When we discover illegal activity, we quickly coordinate with the Attorney General’s Office so they can try to put a stop to it,” Wyman said.

“A key priority for the Attorney General’s Office is to prevent consumers from being scammed,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson and Wyman provided these tips to people who might encounter store-front solicitors:

  • Don’t give in to pressure. Tell the solicitor you want to take time to make your decision.
  • Ask for written material about the charity to take home and research to see if their donations help other charities as they claim.
  • Ask the solicitor if he or she is registered with the Office of Secretary of State.
  • Don’t be fooled by a name. Some use similar sounding names that closely resemble respected, well-established charities.

Since September 2011, the AGO has investigated and filed a lawsuit against one such solicitor for these types of violations. (Here is the link to the complaint filed earlier this year by the state against Joseph W. Searles and Rena R. Searles: . Here is the link to the consent decree for that case:

However, its Consumer Protection Division continues to see new charities and no slowing in the amount of troubling solicitations.

Ferguson and Wyman recently sent a jointly signed letter to Washington retailers alerting them to the questionable solicitations and asking retailers to help by alerting the AGO’s Consumer Protection Division of any suspicious solicitation activity near their stores.

The Secretary of State’s Charities Program has a Give Wisely webpage that includes several tips, a video, a checklist for use with telephone solicitors and a brochure on giving wisely so donors have the knowledge to make informed decisions when giving money.

Visit the Consumer Protection Division website. The Charities Program website can be found.

For more information about questionable solicitors who request donations in front of retail stores, contact the Attorney General’s Office.

AG warns of Medicare scams

OLYMPIA— Attorney General Bob Ferguson has learned Washington residents are receiving calls from scammers posing as Medicare officials seeking personal information, claiming to need the information to issue new Medicare cards. 

“The Office of the Attorney General is dedicated to protecting seniors— and all consumers in Washington— from scammers in the marketplace,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson.  “Seniors need to know that Medicare will never call them offering to replace their cards, they’ll never call seeking personal information and they’ll never charge you to replace your cards.”

These types of scams— also known as “phishing” scams— take a variety of forms. Some scammers will claim to be from your bank or credit card company. Others will tell you they are from Medicare or social security.  The scammers may use phone calls, text messages or e-mail to contact you—even Facebook.  They all have the same goal: obtaining your personal information so they can commit identity theft or access your bank account.

People can protect themselves from “phishing” scams by recognizing the signs:
•    Legitimate companies or government organizations know to never call individuals and ask for their personal information— like social security numbers or bank accounts— over the phone.
•    If you question whether the call is legitimate, ask the caller to provide your personal information for you to confirm.
•    Callers may also contact the organization the scammer claims to be representing to double check.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson is dedicated to running the state’s largest public law firm as an independent, non-partisan office. His priorities are protecting consumers and seniors against fraud, keeping communities safe, enforcing environmental protections and providing assistance to our veterans.

For those who wish to give to legitimate non-profits tax deductible and respectful organizations, here is a compiled list of our favorites:  (this is for the current typhoon disaster in the Phillipines).

American Red Cross –

Care –

The Phillipine Red Cross –


Save the Children –

Habitat for Humanity –

(c) 2013 The NW Fire Blog



Flood Alert Cancelled – King County, Washington State

Release Date and Time:

04-06-2013 08:17:00 AM

The King County Flood Warning Center closed at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 6, following a brief opening to monitor minor flood conditions on the Snoqualmie River.

The Flood Warning Center opened at 7:30 p.m. Friday following a day of steady rainfall that brought the Snoqualmie River up to a Phase II flood alert level.

While the Flood Warning Center is now closed, King County staff will continue to monitor stream gages and weather reports, and will provide updated information on river conditions as necessary. Real-time river level information is available online at

Updated information on flooding will also be posted on the King County website at, and via RPIN, the area’s regional emergency information website at A recorded flood-information hotline is also updated each hour for citizens wanting information in flood areas. The number is 206-296-8200 or 1-800-945-9263.

Citizens who need help interpreting flood information should call 206-296-4535 or 1-800-768-7932. Problems on County maintained roads can be reported by calling 206-296-8100 or 1-800-KC-ROADS.

An automated flood alert system is now available and provides real-time warning of potential high water on more than a half-dozen rivers. King County residents and business owners can sign up to receive King County Flood Alerts by visiting, or by calling 206-263-3400 during regular business hours to register by phone. Messages of potential high flows on any of King County’s major river systems can be sent by phone, text or email.

The King County Flood Control District is a special purpose government created to provide funding and policy oversight for flood protection projects and programs in King County.  The Flood Control District’s Board is composed of the members of the King County Council. The Water and Land Resources Division of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks develops and implements the approved flood protection projects and programs. Information is available at


Source:  RPIN (Regional Public Information Network)

Republished:  4/6/13 1215 Hrs PST