Staying healthy and happy

With everything he learned about the effects of smoking during Lean and Green Day, Mathew Britton swears he’ll never touch a cigarette or chew tobacco.

“It has definitely changed my perspective of what tobacco does to you,” said Britton, a 15-year-old student at Anderson New Technology High School in Anderson, California.

He knew smoking was a bad choice before, he said, but never realized the full range of health impacts it could have until teaming up with Manuel Meza, an organizer with Shasta County Public Health, to staff a booth at the annual eveny.

Britton was one of about 40 New Tech teens who volunteered their time and creativity to design booths and teach hundreds of grade-school students about healthy life choices and nutrition during the annual event, held this year at the Anderson River Park.

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Cracking the escalator myth

Was there ever an escalator in Shasta County, California before Macy’s opened at Redding’s Mt. Shasta Mall in 2001?

That’s a question now steeped in decades of nostalgia and mystery.

Some folks seem to remember automated stairs in downtown Redding back in the 1960s, maybe in the former J.C. Penney’s department store on Market Street or leading to the basement of Dicker’s on Pine? How about the Pay Less Department Store? Woolworth? Or maybe Montgomery Ward’s?

It’s a topic reporters have dug into before, but more than 45 years after the Summer of Love many locals are still divided on the issue. So when it came up again this year, one intrepid reporter turned to social media and good old-fashioned shoe leather to try and crack the myth once and for all.

Hundreds of people chimed in, and many of those interactions are captured in a Storify thread below, but even with new research it doesn’t look like the issue is going to be put to rest any time some.

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Planting season

Medical marijuana is a contentious issue in Northern California, and elsewhere. On one hand patients and advocates say it works wonders for some ailments, contending that limiting access to the plant harms patients in need. But detractors say the proliferation of marijuana and poorly regulated cultivation standards have eroded the quality of life and led to increased crime in the North State.

There’s no simple solution.

In 2014 many of those arguments came to a head when Shasta County supervisors in January voted to ban outdoor marijuana grows, but a petition drive followed and collected enough signatures to have the ordinance placed on the November ballot as Measure A.

Ultimately voters approved the ban, and the Record Searchlight chronicled the debate through election day and beyond. These are a few highlights:

>> Supervisors vote to ban outdoor marijuana grows

>> Marijuana petition gathers double number of needed signatures to make ballot

>> Law enforcement braces for busy marijuana grow season / (web)

>> Planting party marks cultivation time

>> Shasta County’s 420 surveillance flight

>> Measure A forum looks at pros, cons of proposed marijuana regulations

>> Money behind Shasta County marijuana ordinance swells as election nears

>> Yes on Measure A press conference met with protests

>> Voters back ban on outdoor marijuana cultivation

What’s in a fire fight?

The fast-moving Eiler Fire scorched about 50 square miles in Northern California in July and August 2014 before firefighters got it under control. It burned through the small town of Hat Creek, torching seven homes and an iconic restaurant. But before the blaze tore into town it grew in size for nearly two days in the depths of the Thousand Lakes Wilderness of the Lassen National Forest.

This two-part investigative series dug into Forest Service dispatch logs obtained through a FOIA request and original interviews to chronicle the early hours of the Eiler Fire, raising questions about the initial response and resources committed to the fire. Thankfully no one was killed by the flames, but some lives were forever altered.

The series earned a Best of Scripps award for watchdog reporting.


>> Response to Eiler Fire limited by resources

>> Communications stumble during Eiler Fire

Billions of gallons missing

While residents in Northern California suffered water cutbacks and potential fines due to historic drought conditions, billions of gallons flowing through local water systems went unaccounted for in recent years, a Record Searchlight investigation found.

Extensive public records requests and analysis revealed that more than 3.2 billion gallons of drinking water pumped into major water utilities around Shasta County in 2013 alone never made it to customers’ spigots, averaging a nearly 25 percent loss.

This Sunday story package and accompanying water loss database had an almost immediate impact. One utility stepped up leak detection efforts even before the story published, a city council balked at a water rate increase the following week citing my findings, and a grand jury investigation was launched looking into management and practices from major water providers in the county.

The story on is for subscribers only, but a PDF version is available here. And don’t forget to dig into the data.