CHEERS FOR THE FIRE crews: Fight a big wildfire and you get hot, tired and smoke in your eyes, but often not a lot of glory.

But 13 CalFire firefighters who battled the 3,100-acre Morgan wildfire on Mount Diablo in September got a minute-long standing ovation from a Walnut Creek theater full of people.

The firefighters also won a conservation group award on their big night.

Save Mount Diablo on Nov. 6 gave one of its "Mountain Stars Awards" to CalFire crews stationed at the Sunshine Station east of Clayton. They were in the heart of the battle against the six-day fire in steep, rugged country.

Thirteen firefighters received the stirring applause as they appeared on stage together at the Lesher Regional Center for the Arts.

"In my 24 years at CalFire, this is the first time I got a standing ovation," quipped Mike Marcucci, a Calfire battalion chief in charge of the station.

To win the public praise, it probably didn't hurt that firefighters succeeded in preventing the loss of any homes, although nearly a hundred were threatened at times.

HOW LONG IS BRIEF?: The Brown Act, which governs meetings of public agencies in the state, stipulates that for items not on an agenda, officials should limit themselves to brief comments and refer discussion to a future agenda. At the Pinole City Council, "brief" can mean 28 minutes ... or longer.


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On Nov. 5, after two residents spoke about funding and design of a skate park during the public comment session for items not on the agenda, the council held a 28-minute discussion that included a presentation by the public works director and detailed comments by all five council members and the city manager. Later, an agenda item to select a wastewater subcommittee member to work with the staff morphed into a one-hour discussion covering finance and governance of the joint Pinole-Hercules wastewater plant, and possible litigation against Hercules.

Mayor Debbie Long emailed The Eye last week, explaining that she had incorporated the "Reports by Staff" section into the public comment session.

"That is why I didn't allow for any public input after the report was given," she wrote, adding, "if it was a 'violation' of the Brown Act, then why didn't our city attorney speak up?"

No decisions were made on either issue, and residents will get a chance to speak on them at a later date, Long added.

Assistant city attorney Stephanie Downs, who filled in for City Attorney Ben Reyes on Nov. 5, did not respond to an email. Reyes, who was copied on the email, said neither matter violated the Brown Act.

The clarification on the skate park issue was as brief as possible given the complexity of the issue, Reyes said, adding, "With respect to the Wastewater Subcommittee agenda item, the mayor was providing as transparent an explanation as possible as to why she was not intending to appoint anyone to this particular subcommittee."

mayoral heat: Lafayette Mayor Mike Anderson took some heat at a City Council meeting last week from some of his neighbors.

Resident Doug Fields accused the mayor of preventing police from enforcing traffic laws on Mountain View Drive.

Fields asserted that Anderson does not want speeders complaining about traffic enforcement on the street. While Fields acknowledged he'd seen a speed checker on the street that evening, he said that wasn't enough. "We need a conscious effort to try and stop the unsafe driving," he said.

Anderson replied that he would "certainly talk" with the chief of police about it.

Earlier in the meeting, another Mountain View Drive neighbor asked why the city had not notified residents about a "monster-grade house" being built on their street. "I know it's the mayor's house and I have no objection to his building a house, but we should have been properly notified," the resident said.

City Manager Steven Falk said he would ask the planning director to give the resident a call and "explain the rules."

FRESH FRUIT: In an area of Brentwood where new houses sprout alongside longtime farms, a new fruit stand is taking shape. Strawberry grower Chanchio Sio Tern was seen recently with electric saw and screwdriver in hand next to a field of strawberries working on the small, wooden fruit stand structure along O'Hara Avenue.

The new stand should open in April, says Tern, a former Brentwood resident who moved to Stockton, where he found housing more affordable.

Staff writers Denis Cuff, Tom Lochner, Jennifer Modenessi and Susan Pollard contributed to this story.