NEIGHBORS : Where's the Fire? : A cartographer's new maps detail the locations of hydrants and other features vital to emergency workers.


Ask Philip Settem where the nearest fire hydrant is located and he'll probably be able to tell you.

No, he doesn't have a dog with a bladder problem.

In a matter of days, Settem, Ventura County's chief cartographer, will put the final touches on a detailed set of maps designed to make life easier for the county's firefighters.

Not only do the Fire Response maps pinpoint hydrants, they also show firefighters other things they need to know.

"Water sources, locked gates on a fire road or a private road, special sites like hospitals," said Settem. "Things like that."

Settem said the maps have been in the works for about 10 years.

They will be distributed to all of the county fire stations and should be in use within the next couple of months.

"We've superimposed the street network onto the Fire Department map," he said.

"There won't be a discrepancy between one station and another."

While thousands of birds flew to Capistrano last week, one bird flew to Trader Joe's market in Ventura.

It was actually a sparrow, not a swallow, but nevertheless it provided some entertainment for the customers.

"It was 'Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom' in here," joked Paul Winans, a Trader Joe's employee.

After his co-workers struggled to remove the bird from the store, Winans stepped in.

He previously worked at the Trader Joe's in West Hollywood, where, he said, he had plenty of experience bouncing birds.

"I just opened the doors," said the modest hero. "Pretty simple."

Dwight Clements, the man who tends the Casitas Dam, enjoys giving tours of his workplace to groups of schoolchildren.

Each tour includes a walk down a tunnel that goes beneath the dam and into the water.

Clements said he used to turn off the lights inside the tunnel to let the kids experience total darkness, but he has changed his philosophy.

Some kids didn't take to the idea. For some, it was fear of the dark. Others had different problems.

Like the young boy who lost a valuable personal belonging: One day, said Clements, he shut off the lights and the boy began to scream. Clements turned the lights back on and tried to calm the child, but to no avail. The darkness wasn't the problem.

As it turned out, while the lights had been off, the boy had lost a tooth.

"He said, 'Please help me, mister. Please find it or the tooth fairy won't come and see me,' " Clements said. "We couldn't find it, so I said, 'Me and the tooth fairy have a deal. If you lose a tooth in my tunnel I'll give you a quarter.' " And Clements reached into his pocket and handed the boy a quarter.

The boy wasn't appeased.

"He told me," Clements said, " 'But usually I get 50 cents.' "

A check with the Ventura County Food Bank showed some hard times as Easter approaches.

Executive Director Jewel Pedi said the organization will continue to serve the 89,000 families it usually serves, but there are no plans for anything special for the holiday.

"We're kind of just holding our own," Pedi said. "We've also had a tremendous increase in migrant families we are feeding and we also have some military families. We're stretching our food right now."

As might be expected, the egg business has been brisk this week--with Easter near.

In fact, Maria Lowry, the secretary at the Ventura office of the big Olson Farms egg company, estimates that wholesale business traditionally increases 10% to 15% the week before the holiday.

"Generally, supermarkets buy more because people buy them to decorate. Then we have private interest groups that have egg rolls or Easter egg hunts," she said.

"A lot of people who don't generally sell eggs come in the week before Easter because they figure they're going to make a killing."

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