Raise your hand if you're happy this week is over. We agree. It's been a long one. A few thoughts on the news elsewhere, what it means here and then a few numbers of note:
Local risk for plant explosions?
Although the horrific incidents occurred thousands of miles away, first in Boston and then in West, Texas, we sympathize with the victims of the bombs and the fertilizer plant explosion.
Stanislaus County officials offered some reassuring words that we don't have "anything in the magnitude of" the West Fertilizer Co., where the explosion and fire blasted surrounding blocks. That's good to know, but we remain concerned about the ethanol plant in Keyes and many fire chiefs do too, even if they aren't saying so publicly.
The volunteer Keyes Fire Protection District relies on neighboring agencies for assistance on many of its calls fire and medical and its fire station is just across Highway 99 from the ethanol plant. It would very likely be leveled in a major explosion.
The ethanol plant owners/operators have never stepped up to the plate to provide the money for adequate training and for the special foam that would be needed to attack a fire at the ethanol plant. Without adequate training or equipment, fire chiefs cannot, legally or morally, send their people in to battle a fire that would be nearly invisible, because ethanol burns blue rather than red like most flames.
Aemetis is the current operator of the plant. We urge that firm to be a good corporate citizen and satisfy the concerns of local fire chiefs.
Finally, Modesto, Merced make a good list
The jobless numbers of Stanislaus and Merced counties are still high, but they've dropped significantly. The website 247WallSt.com put out a list this week of the communities across the United States. where unemployment has fallen the most. Modesto/Stanislaus County came in at No. 6, with a one-year drop of 2.1 percentage points, to 14.9 percent in February. Merced was No. 8 on the list, with a similar drop to 17.8 percent unemployment.
Madera County was No. 4. And because we know you're interested: No. 3 was Las Vegas and Nos. 2 and 1 were the Florida cities of Ocala and Palm Coast.
This website which claims to provide "insightful analysis and commentary for U.S. and global equity investors" puts together these lists using numbers from other organizations, in this case the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If a disaster hit here, would you be ready?
Thursday marked the 107th anniversary of the big San Francisco earthquake, which destroyed 80 percent of the city and killed an estimated 3,000 people. The anniversary prompted reminders from the Association of California Insurance Companies to 1. make sure you have earthquake coverage only 12 percent of California residents have purchased it and 2. Make sure to have an emergency preparedness kit, with food, water and medications, and have a family evacuation and communication plan. The California Emergency Management Agency website, http://myhazards.calema.ca.gov, provides suggestions. You also can type in your address and get recommendations how to prepare not only for an earthquake, but also for flood or fire. Good news for us: We don't have to prepare for a tsunami other than for the coastal people who would be fleeing one.
Counting your opportunities for fun, service
The Modesto Garden Club hosts its annual spring garden tour today, with 1,700 people expected to participate. Tickets, at $20 each, are still available at the office, 622 14th St., which is also one of the eight gardens on view. To find the other gardens, go to the club website, www.modestogardenclub.org.
The garden club, with 495 members, does many good things in our community, including, planting and maintaining nearly 2,000 plants at the flower clock; planting and maintaining the Virginia Corridor Rose Garden of 200 roses; maintaining several other downtown gardens and the downtown pots.
ReadingWorks Adult Literacy Program is looking for volunteers to tutor 31 local residents hoping to improve their reading and writing skills. The next training dates for those interested in becoming volunteer reading tutors will be at the ReadingWorks Learning Center, 1032 11th St. in Modesto, on May 8 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and May 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is a $10 cost for training materials. The fee can be waived if requested. To sign up for the orientation and training session, call (209) 558-4505. Tutors are asked to meet for a minimum of 90 minutes, twice a week in a public location and are matched with a student who is available to meet when the tutor is available.
Mark your calendar for May 4, the date for the annual Friends of the Modesto Library used book sale. It will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the east portico of the downtown library, overlooking the farmers market. None of the organizers have counted the exact number of books to be sold, but promise it is in the thousands. The prices: $1 per hardcover book and 50 cents for paperbacks.