Chico smokers defiant to the last: Out of about 100 bars in Butte County, 95 percent of them are cooperating with a 1998 state law banning smoking in drinking establishments. Want to guess where the remaining 5 percent are concentrated?

“If there are five out of compliance, right now Chico’s got three or four of them,” reported Byron Brace, health education specialist for the Butte County Department of Public Health. Brace recently announced the receipt of a grant that pays for reserve sheriff’s deputies to make site inspections of bars, especially where the law has been flaunted in the past. Citations for first-time offenders can cost close to $300 with court costs and can be given to bartenders, owners and patrons alike.

“Our [compliance rate] is one of the highest in the state,” Brace said.

Dumbasses ridin': Lassen Volcanic National Park is now using state-of-the-art satellite technology to track, catch and prosecute illegal snowmobilers—who will henceforth be referred to by their legal description: dumbasses.

One alleged dumbass, a 46-year-old Colusa man, who, according to a strangely worded press release, “claimed to be the leader of who admitted to illegal snowmobile entry,” was caught and cited March 2, allegedly trespassing in the wilderness area. Two weeks later, two Chester residents, ages 38 and 22 were confronted in court with aerial and ground photos and Global Positioning System evidence of their alleged tracks. The two alleged dumbasses paid a $500 fine rather than go before a judge.

The reason snowmobiling in the park makes you a dumbass and carries fines of up to $10,000 or six months in jail is that it’s illegal and, says Park Superintendent Marilyn H. Parris, “Illegal snowmobile use in park wilderness creates a significant intrusion into that wilderness experience.”

Electrotubin': A low flying plane almost turned Chico’s annual Memorial Day tubin’ tradition into a mass electrocution, when it knocked over a power pole, throwing two power lines into the river. The lines were not in use, however, sparing the 25 or so tubers who were nearby.

The power lines are a “backfeed” to the Hamilton City area that are used as an alternate source of power when the main lines fail. Had they been live, they could have affected the same grisly scenario as throwing a plugged-in toaster into a hot tub full of people.

Glenn County sheriff’s deputies treated the incident as a real emergency, sending a boat and three wave runners to head off tubers upstream of the downed lines.

The plane, said to be a nondescript, single-engine aircraft, was apparently flying south, using the river to navigate. The pilot’s identity is unknown at this point, but according to a sheriff’s department spokesman, they have “a few good leads” to go on, including a partial tail number, and the fact that that the plane may have been dragging 20-40 feet of wire when it landed.“This person would be very smart to come forward,” said the spokesman.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified. It is a crime for a pilot to not report an accident.