Edgewood Villa fire: what you can do to help

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A devastating fire ripped through one of the buildings at Manette’s Edgewood Villa apartments on Monday, leaving 16 people without a home, the Red Cross says. 

The cause of the fire has been determined to be discarded cigarette butts left in a cardboard box on one of the balconies, according to Bremerton Fire Marshal Mike Six.

Many people have asked me how they can help. I’m compiling a list of resources here so you can contribute on your own terms. If I have forgotten any, please go ahead and drop me an email at jfarley@kitsapsun.com. I’m hearing food and toiletries are more important right now than clothing and furniture.

The Red Cross is also working to coordinate plans for donations. They were able to help two of the 16 with shelter last night at Peace Lutheran Church, and supported 11 families financially to get lodging, according to Dave Rasmussen, disaster program manager.

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“We’re still in response mode,” he said. “But we know people in Kitsap County, and particularly Bremerton, want to help.”

Here’s some ways you can do that:

The Manette Neighborhood Coalition has set up a GoFundMe site where you can contribute financially.

The Allstate Insurance office of Betty Skinner, 4181 Wheaton Way, Suite one, is accepting donated items to give to the fire victims. Clothing, personal toiletries, gift cards and more will be accepted. Open regular business hours. For more information, call (360) 479-9850.

Rejuv Salon & Spa,1007 Scott Ave. Suite B, is also a “drop spot” for clothing, linens and other donations. It’s open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Their phone number is (360) 405-0293.

If you’d like to stick to donating to the Red Cross, Rasmussen told me you can call their Bremerton office (811 Pacific Avenue) and they’ll make a list of everyone who would like to donate. Rasmussen emphasizes that financial donations are of critical importance, as they help families just like the ones at Edgewood Villa get immediate housing, clothing, food and supplies. Their phone number is (360) 377-3761.

Newlife Church in Manette will host a free community dinner at 5:15 p.m. Saturday at Mountain View Middle School. All donations will be donated to the fire victims. Facebook has the details.

Followup: City planned to chop down tree that destroyed Cadillac

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That pine tree that came dangerously close to taking a man’s life at Lions Park on Monday? It had been earmarked by the city’s parks and recreation department for removal.

“The root system on the north side of the tree was showing it uprooting a tiny bit,” said Tom Cressman, Bremerton parks maintenance manager.

Parks staff, in consultation with Puget Sound Energy municipal liaison and city tree committee member Tom Brobst, made the call April 29.

“It was not an immediate threat to anything, so we thought we had some time to remove it,” Cressman said.

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Parks staff, which has been busy with not only maintenance but the construction of a new park in Anderson Cove, didn’t get to it before Monday, when it collapsed. Paul Oakes, there to umpire a game, got a warning from one of the trees pinecones hitting him on the shoulder before the 40-foot tree fell. He escaped by inches. His Cadillac wasn’t so lucky.

Brobst told parks staff that two neighboring pine trees should also come down. So on Tuesday, parks staff took down the two other pines while they cleaned up the first one that fell.

“So we should be good there in that area,” Cressman said.

Beat buzz: There’s something about this Bloody Mary

Recently, a group of 35 Olympia bikers called the Garage Bar & Grill in Kitsap Way with a warning: they were en route to Bremerton and they weren’t leaving without a Bloody Mary.

Not just any Bloody Mary, mind you. We’re talking about a freshly-made 22-ounce monster equipped with an entire buffet of bar food around its rim.

The mere act of delivering it to one of The Garage’s bar stools is a showstopper.

“Their faces light up and their phones come out,” said Annie Herinckx, The Garage’s manager and creator of the special line of drinks there.

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Far as I can tell, if you’ve not somehow heard about these behemoths from a friend or scrolled past a picture of one on Facebook, you’re the rarity. They sold more than 1,600 Bloody Marys in May alone. The buzz around the specialty menu is big, to include a write-up in Chilled Magazine, dedicated to those things served mixed.

Personally, I found a lot to like in the Ultimate Bloody Mary ($13) which includes a slider, three shrimp and sweet candied bacon. Even more carnivore-inclined Seahawks fans will want to indulge the Beast Mode ($16), which comes with bacon, tater tots, chicken wings, a pepperoni straw and — what else? — a bag of skittles. The drinks range from the “basic” (still heavily garnished) at $7 all the way to the recently-debuted “Big Mother Mary,” a $40 pitcher equipped with every last accompaniment they have.

Herinckx said the idea for the specialized line of drinks just came to her late one night. She had inspiration from Danny Mederios, a legendary Bremerton bartender who made scratch bloody mary’s at Romeo’s before his death four years ago. His picture still hangs in the bar. She also had help from the TV show “Bar Rescue,” she says.

The drink is the integral part of a successful turnaround of the bar. Once better known for its place in the “Barmuda Triangle” DUI trap, Herinckx and bar owner Jack Johnson transformed it into The Garage in October 2012. With an emphasis on staff kindness to create a welcoming environment and having a nearly 24-hour kitchen — the place is only ever closed from 2 to 6 a.m. — Johnson and Herinckx have nearly quadrupled the business.

The bar’s located at 6812 Kitsap Way. Their full Bloody Mary lineup is below.

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New posters up at the downtown cinemas

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Gretchen Ritter-Lopatowski has seen her share of movies recently at Bremerton’s SEEFilm Cinemas. Like, 20 to 25 of them.

When you design the winning entry for a new poster on the cinemas’ exterior, you get to go for free for a year. And bring a friend. And have credit at the snack bar to go with.

“We have been fully taking advantage of it,” she said.

The graphic designer, who moved here little more than two years ago, was enticed last fall to try her hand at winning the competition. The result (see above) is a lovely collage of Bremerton and theater iconography.

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“I was going for something visually appealing, to catch their attention and keep them there,” she said. “Everyone says when they look at it they always find something new.”

Ritter-Lopatowski lives here with her husband Jason, who works at Rice Fergus Miller architects downtown.

Another poster also went up on the theater, welcoming drivers through Bremerton’s ferry tunnel (also below). It’s the work of Mike Stitt, who with his wife Julie manage the theater.

The theater, which opened in June 2012, has continued to grow attendance since it opened. Attendance its first year reached 172,000; now in its third year, it’s likely to eclipse 200,000, according to statistics kept by the City of Bremerton.

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Why is Bremerton ferry ridership swelling?

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For the past few years, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the ridership numbers for the Bremerton-Seattle ferry run. And the latest numbers out of the state ferry system, I must say, are intriguing.

What we know: ridership grew about 10 percent between 2013 and 2014, with 2.5 million riding in the latter year, according to state ferries’ statistics.

In the first quarter of 2015, ridership was again up on the Bremerton run, this time growing from 488,000 passengers in 2013 to 524,000 in 2014 and finally 574,000 in 2015.

So what gives? A statistical anomaly or something permanent? I asked Raymond Deardorf, planning director for the Washington State Ferries, for his thoughts. He mentioned the economy plays a role in the whole system, and it doesn’t hurt to have the Seahawks in Seattle.

“Looks like the route ridership has returned to its pre-recession levels,” Deardorf said. “And maybe even exceeding those levels.”

Why is that, you ask? Here are my theories:

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It’s the economy, stupid: we know that the Great Recession is over. So more people could be riding as the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s employment near 13,000. Ridership earlier this decade has reached 2.5 million before. And, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Seattle’s economy really couldn’t get much hotter. But the economic changes should affect all ferry runs and the system as a whole isn’t growing as fast as Bremerton’s.

The Seahawk effect: Yep, we’ve got one heck of a football team in the Pacific Northwest, don’t we? They’ve been packing the ferries for each home game. That might result in some higher numbers but remember that the vessels only hold between 1,200 and 2,000 passengers. That would explain a little jump but also remember the Seahawks have been packing them in for more than a few years now.

On a related note, the Mariners’ potential of late has more people going to Safeco (notice I said “potential”) which could be helping the uptick.

Avoiding 305: There’s an imaginary line through Kitsap County where Seattle commuters who live here make a choice to go to either Bremerton’s ferry terminal or Bainbridge. We can debate where that line is but I think it’s moving north, with more commuters choosing Bremerton over Bainbridge. Why? The nightmare each day on Highway 305 as Bainbridge’s ferries arrive in Winslow. Trying to drive off the island during the commuting hours is just brutal.

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While Bainbridge has more ferry runs and a shorter crossing time than Bremerton, Highway 305 congestion could be bumping some riders to the latter run. Case in point: While Bremerton’s run grew almost nine percent in the first quarter of this year compared to last, Bainbridge’s actually fell a half-percent.

Update: After posting this on Facebook, many readers argue that the state ferry system has been more accurately counting customers heading to Bremerton. It’s no secret that many of us have returned to Bremerton over the years only to find the ticket booth attendant had registered our car to the Bainbridge route.

I thought not only about the northern commute but the southern one as well, in which many ferry over to Seattle and then drive back around via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But I can’t see how that is changing ridership, especially with so much of the Seattle waterfront torn up and under construction right now.

I’d encourage you to check out the numbers for yourself and weigh in on my hypotheses. And feel free to add some of your own.

IN PHOTOS: In search of Bremerton’s biggest Rhododendron

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This is a rhododendron. Really.

It’s the state flower of Washington for a reason. This time of year is just spectacular in Bremerton and beyond as rhododendrons pop with radiant colors.

But there’s one rhodie I look forward to every year in this city. No, not the ones in my own yard but rather on Fifth Street, not far from Kiwanis Park.

And it’s huge.

Ben Anson, a retired cop who lives in Illahee, told me about it a few years back. “You must go see it,” he’d say. So I did, and I didn’t regret it.

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The thing must be 20 feet tall and at least that wide. Owned by the Wilson family, its hundreds, if not thousands of magenta-colored flowers put on a dazzling show each year. Many people who see it don’t even realize it’s a rhododendron.

It made me wonder: is there any bigger, more spectacular rhododendron in Bremerton? Or in Kitsap County, for that matter?

“This is quite a spectacular rhododendron!” Olaf Ribeiro, a tree pathologist and arborist on Bainbridge Island. “It is  probably the biggest one I have seen in Kitsap county!”

But he knew, as did I, that I needed to talk to Bremerton Arborist Jim Trainer, who has spent a career not only studying trees but the biggest ones among them.

Trainer told me that, yes, there is one he knows of even bigger than the one on Fifth Street. At somewhere around 35 feet tall, it reigns over the Krigsman’s property in Illahee. Not long ago, we wrote a story about an old copper beech tree on their land that is believed to have been planted by Dr. Henry LaMotte, chief surgeon for President Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders.

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The variety of rhododendron, as well as the soil in which it is planted, make a big difference in how massive they can get, Trainer said. In his book “Trees of Seattle,” plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobsen lists the largest rhododendron “fortunei” hybrid at 40 feet tall and a Rhododendron “catawbiense” at 20 feet tall and 23 feet wide.

“So, if your Rhody is a catawbiense it is certainly a champion tree!” Ribeiro said.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to be definitive in this case. As Trainer points out: “I haven’t been in everybody’s backyard,” in an effort to find the biggest one.

We at the Bremerton Beat will continue to investigate just how special this Rhododendron is. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to drop me a note — and preferably a photo to go with — if you think you’ve got an even bigger, even more stunning rhodie than this one.

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Turner Joy’s museum shop gets a new coat of paint

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The USS Turner Joy is due for a more-than $1 million renovation next year, so her underbelly can be scrubbed and painted.

But what about the little shop that fronts the mighty Vietnam-era destroyer?

Mick Hersey, a veteran and Kitsap County’s inexhaustible historical memorial preservationist, thought about a revamp of the shop about three years ago. It took a bit longer than he thought it would, with the sign erected on the shop the day of the ribbon-cutting Wednesday.

“What I thought was a four day work project finished 30 minutes ago,” Hersey said before a gathered crowd of dignitaries.

Here’s what’s impressive: Hersey pulled together different Navy-related groups and once again got help from Lowe’s Home Improvement stores, who’d partnered with him in the past on projects like attaining new American flags for military memorials here.

In total, 105 volunteers contributed, with Lowe’s picking up the approximately $3,000 tab for siding and paint. Robert Parker, a Port Orchard resident who often volunteers for civic projects, was singled out at the ribbon cutting for his technical know-how in getting the project over the hump.

As for that trip to dry dock through Lake Union for the Turner Joy, stay tuned. The Bremerton Historic Ships Association has about $200,000 for the effort at this point, but will need more to make it happen.

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Bremerton police take suspected drug house out of commission

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Bremerton Police served a search warrant at this home on the 1300 block of Rainier Avenue this morning.

Two people have been arrested on drug charges, as officers with Bremerton’s Special Operations Group combed the property looking for evidence. A total of six people were found inside; each could face charges.

As often happens with these investigations, it started with neighborhood complaints, according to Bremerton Police Sgt. Billy Renfro. There was traffic going in and out at all hours. Renfro described it as a flop house.

The Special Operations Group, after developing information that earned a judge’s signature for a warrant, decided it was time to move in.

“It was dirtying up the entire neighborhood,” Detective Steven Forbragd said.

Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan said the search warrant was “part of our ongoing commitment to working with residents to build strong, safe neighborhoods.”

“We hope this sends a message to anyone who wants to break the law and degrade the quality of life in our community,” he said. “It isn’t quick and we need to ensure due process, but we will continue to work hard on these issues.”

Look out Bremerton, it’s Ladies’ Night Out

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Sheila Roberts had been looking for a way to bring more people to downtown Bremerton. In starting the city’s first Ladies’ Night Out, she’s most definitely sweetened the deal.

Roberts, a best selling author who lives at Lake Symington, has been working behind the scenes for months to coordinate with more than 40 stores and restaurants downtown and in Manette to create the event, running from 5-8 p.m. Thursday.

“We would just like people to see there’s fun things to see and do right here in Bremerton,” Roberts said.

I will refer you to the maps below for a full listing of all the goodies and services that are free of charge or discounted. But it includes everything from chocolate to massages to signature drinks.

Things will kick off on Fourth Street, between Washington and Pacific avenues, at the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce. Bags and a free gift — one of Roberts’ books — will be provided.

“We’re hoping we’re going to get people who haven’t checked out Bremerton in awhile,” she said.

Cabs will be provided to get people from downtown to Manette and back.

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