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California is burning…


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #25 on: August 11, 2018, 01:29:31 am »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times…

Mendocino blaze largest in recorded California history

Unprecedented devastation across the state.

By ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN, JAMES QUEALLY and JOSEPH SERNA | Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The Mendocino Complex fire burns near Clearlake Oaks, California. The blaze is burning mostly in forest areas in three counties, largely away from communities. — Photograph: Noah Berger/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
The Mendocino Complex fire burns near Clearlake Oaks, California. The blaze is burning mostly in forest areas in three counties, largely away from communities.
 — Photograph: Photograph: Noah Berger/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


REDDING, CALIFORNIA — It's day 11 for Omar Estorga on the front lines of California's firestorm.

Some nights, the captain and his crew have slept — sitting up — in the seats of their fire engine as the Carr fire raged. Other nights, they've stayed at the base camp in Shasta County. On their days off, they've snagged dorm rooms at Shasta College or, if they're lucky, a hotel room when another fire crew has checked out.

As some 14,000 firefighters wrap up their second week battling more than a dozen destructive wildfires across the state, fatigue is setting in and the fires show few signs of letting up.

To the south, the sprawling Mendocino Complex inferno on Monday became the largest fire ever recorded in California, burning more than 283,000 acres in just 11 days. The Ferguson fire has closed parts of Yosemite National Park indefinitely. Large swaths of the Sacramento Valley have been choked by smoke for days.

While the Carr fire in Redding is easing after destroying more than 1,000 homes and killing seven people, new fires brought threats elsewhere. In the Cleveland National Forest, a fire exploded amid hot conditions in Southern California, burning 4,000 acres and creating ominous smoke visible as far away as Avalon on Catalina Island. And in Stanislaus National Forest, a fast-moving fire burned down the historic Dardanelle Resort, which had stood for nearly 100 years.

For Estorga, the conditions mean he can't tell his family when he's coming home. “We can't give them a day we're going to see them because we have no idea,” said Estorga, a captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “We belong to state for 21 days.”

It's been that kind of year on the California fire lines. Since October, the state has experienced unprecedented devastation as fires burned thousands of homes and killed more than 40 people in wine country. Two months later, the Thomas fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties became the largest fire in recorded state history.

That record was shattered in just eight months, as a pair of fires burning on both sides of Clear Lake raced into the record books, fueled by extreme heat and bone-dry vegetation. Of the five largest wildfires in modern state history, four have occurred since 2012.

“It's been pretty crazy — they're calling this the new norm,” Estorga said. “In years past, there were one or two big fires a year. Now they're doing three to four huge fires in a week.”

The Ranch and River fires, which at 235,000 and 48,800 acres make up the complex fire, have frustrated firefighters as flames continue to leap across creeks, roads and fire lines. While the two blazes have not touched, they broke out an hour apart, and fire officials have been treating them as one event.

Years of drought have created conditions for large-scale wildfires that spread rapidly. The blaze was 30% contained by Monday night.

If there were any silver lining, the Mendocino fire is burning mostly in forest areas in three counties and largely away from communities. Fewer than 100 homes have been destroyed. There have been no reported fatalities.

The Carr fire, where Estorga is stationed, has caused far more damage but is finally slowing down. Firefighters increased containment to 47% by Monday night. The blaze chewed through about 1,200 more acres on Monday as crews continued to build containment lines. That fire has proved to be the deadliest in the state this year, claiming the lives of four residents, a Redding firefighter, a bulldozer operator and a Pacific Gas & Electric utility worker.

Rescue crews there have been repeatedly hamstrung by intense heat and difficult terrain. The fire jumped the Sacramento River more than a week ago and raced into subdivisions in western Redding. Officials said on Monday that shifting winds, steep canyons and rocky terrain on the fire's northern edge along the Shasta and Trinity county border have made it difficult to attack the flames on the ground.

Bulldozers have scraped in defensive lines miles to the north and east, far from the fire's edge. With Trinity Lake providing a natural barrier that has slowed the fire's advance to the northwest, crews will spend the next several days tightening that perimeter until they find a position to make a final stand, officials said.

Though winds will be lighter over the next several days, firefighters are still facing blistering temperatures and bone-dry, smoky conditions.

“The two kind of work against each other a little bit,” said Robert Baruffaldi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

During the first few days battling the Carr fire, Estorga said he couldn't see the sun as he and his team sifted through the devastation, logging addresses of destroyed homes while looking for bodies in the rubble. More recently, he's been digging out smoldering tree roots and cooling them — and other hot spots — with water.

Estorga and his crew members carry about 30 pounds of equipment each, plus a shovel or Pulaski hand tool, when hiking and hunting for hot spots in the searing heat.

“We're constantly sweating, we’re constantly drinking water and Gatorade to try to hydrate ourselves,” Estorga said. “The problem is the terrain — it's never a nice, mild climb. It's usually pretty steep.”

Fire officials are also concerned about the growth of the Donnell fire, which has scorched more than 11,000 acres since it ignited last week in the Stanislaus National Forest. The fire began along the Stanislaus River and has triggered mandatory evacuations. Like several other blazes around the state, the fire is in steep terrain that has made containment efforts difficult, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Forest Service. The blaze was only 2% contained as of Monday.

As the fires raged in Northern California, meteorologists issued red flag warnings in the Los Angeles area, where temperatures will reach the triple digits in several neighborhoods and cities this week.

Woodland Hills could see a high of 108, while Santa Clarita and Burbank could all see the mercury rise above 100 before Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Farther north, other cities that could experience triple-digit heat are Ojai in Ventura County and Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County.


__________________________________________________________________________

• Alene Tchekmedyian is a Metro reporter at the Los Angeles Times covering breaking news in California. She previously covered Glendale and Burbank police for Times Community News. She received her master’s in journalism from Columbia University after graduating from UCLA, where she worked at the student-run Daily Bruin. She currently serves on the UCLA Communications Board, which oversees the university's student-run media publications. She grew up in Huntington Beach.

• James Queally writes about crime and policing in Southern California. Since coming to the Los Angeles Times he has also traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, and Cleveland to cover large-scale protests involving police use-of-force and the 2016 election. A Brooklyn native, he came to the L.A. Times in 2014 after covering crime and police news for the Star-Ledger in New Jersey. In that time he profiled Frank Lucas, the drug kingpin who inspired the film “American Gangster” and wrote a series of stories that revealed how the state's largest police departments failed to solve thousands of non-fatal shootings, which led to policy changes.

• oseph Serna is a Metro reporter who has been with the Los Angeles Times since 2012. He previously worked for papers in Orange County and Signal Hill, a 2.2-square-mile city surrounded by Long Beach. He was part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for coverage of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack and is a graduate of California's community college and Cal State systems.

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« Reply #26 on: August 11, 2018, 01:29:54 am »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times…

Timber proposal is more kindling for controversy:
A new effort to thin the forests


Trump's assertion that logging will reduce fire risk is disputed.

By LOUIS SAHAGUN | Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Bryant Baker, left, of Los Padres Forest Watch, and naturalist James Lowery hike along Tecuya Ridge. — Photograph: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times.
Bryant Baker, left, of Los Padres Forest Watch, and naturalist James Lowery hike along Tecuya Ridge. — Photograph: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times.

Logging has long been among California's most divisive environmental issues — and the controversy shows little chance of cooling as the Trump administration pushes new efforts to thin forests.

The federal government is moving to allow commercial logging of healthy green pine trees for the first time in decades in the Los Padres National Forest north of Los Angeles, a tactic the U.S. Forest Services says will reduce fire risk. It’s an idea President Trump appeared to endorse in tweets inaccurately linking wildfire to state water management.

“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!”

The brunt of Trump's tweet attempts to tie the fires ravaging Northern California to complaints by members of the state's Republican congressional delegation about environmental protections that have reduced water deliveries to San Joaquin Valley agriculture.

Trump's suggestion was quickly disputed: That water is not used for firefighting, there is no shortage of water available to firefighters, and, generally speaking, water plays a relatively small role in wildland firefights, which focus primarily on fire breaks and fuel clearance.

“We're having no problems as far as access to water supply,” said Scott McClean, deputy chief of the California Department of Forest and Fire Protection. “The problem is changing climate leading to more severe and destructive fires.”

“For the president to attempt to make political hay out of this disaster is unfortunate and unconscionable,” said Rick Frank, professor of environmental practice at the UC Davis School of Law.

But Trump's call for tree-clearing is more than just an idle tweet.

The Trump administration is seeking to re-open some of the most sensitive and sought-after public lands in the state not just for timber production, but also for potential solar, wind, broadband infrastructure, mining, off-road vehicle and grazing uses.

When it comes to timber, the justification is fire prevention.

Environmental groups have long argued that the logging industry has used fire as an excuse to plunder forests, cutting big trees and leaving behind only small, unmarketable timber.

The timber industry, however, says that in order to remove flammable deadwood and stop the spread of insects to still-healthy trees, it needs greater access to more valuable live trees.

“Active forest and rangeland management, including harvesting, grazing, prescribed burns and other fuels treatments, would make our forests healthier, less prone to severe fires and help them adapt to a hotter, drier climate,” said Andrea Howell, a spokeswoman for Sierra Pacific Industries, one of the nation's largest logging firms.


Pinon Pines Estates is seen from Tecuya Ridge in the Los Padres National Forest. The U.S. government is moving to allow commercial logging of healthy green pine trees in the forest for the first time in decades. — Photograph: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times.
Pinon Pines Estates is seen from Tecuya Ridge in the Los Padres National Forest. The U.S. government is moving to allow commercial logging of
healthy green pine trees in the forest for the first time in decades. — Photograph: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times.


One way to help get the job done, industry advocates maintain, is to set aside what they describe as burdensome regulations that have curtailed timber harvesting in national forests.

That is exactly what the Trump administration is considering in Los Padres.

The Forest Service plans to remove most of the sagebrush and cut down thousands of Jeffrey pine, Ponderosa pine and white fir trees across 2,800 acres it says are overgrown, unhealthy and vulnerable to drought and disease.

Officials said the plans include creation of a firebreak 12 miles long and up to half a mile wide along Tecuya Ridge, and removal of brush and trees, including marketable green pines in Cuddy Valley, without first conducting formal environmental impact reviews of the potential effect on habitats and wildlife such as the federally endangered California condor.

“Our goal is to keep the … forest healthy and increase public safety,” said Gregory Thompson, who helps manage the Los Padres National Forest. “We have plans for additional commercial logging projects.”

Marketable logs would be hauled to the Sierra Forest Products sawmill near Porterville, about 90 miles to the north, he said.

The plans, which officials said may be approved this month, have drawn criticism from environmental organizations including the Los Padres Forest Watch, the John Muir Project of Earth Island and the Center for Biological Diversity.

On a recent weekday, naturalist James Lowery, 73, of Frazier Mountain eyed a stand of 100-foot-tall Jeffrey pines shading a stretch of Tecayu Ridge that the Forest Service insists is overstocked and ailing.

“To bureaucrats in Washington looking at a map, this area probably doesn't look ecologically significant,” he said.

But “ripping out sage and shrubs would eliminate habitat for ground-nesting birds, insects, reptiles and small mammals including the wood rats that spent generations building that nest over there,” he said, nodding toward a pile of twigs and wood chips.

“Without those creatures, there would be no reason for animals that feed on them — gray foxes, bobcats and mountain lions — to come here,” he said. “And it's not hard to imagine how California condors that roost in surrounding snags would react to the rumble and roar of heavy machinery.”

Lowery paused, weighing his words, and said, “This forest would not recover in my lifetime from what the Forest Service likes to call fuel reduction and forest improvement projects.”

Timber advocates such as Representatives Doug LaMalfa (Republican-Richvale) and Tom McClintock (Republican-Elk Grove) argue that activists and environmental laws are responsible for the steep decline in timber sales — and an increase in forest fires — throughout the West.


Bryant Baker conservation director for Los Padres Forest Watch, shows evidence of woodpeckers and bug species in the conifer forest along Tecuya Ridge. — Photograph: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times.
Bryant Baker conservation director for Los Padres Forest Watch, shows evidence of woodpeckers and bug species in the conifer forest along Tecuya Ridge.
 — Photograph: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times.


So far this year, an estimated 4,800 fires have burned about 550,000 acres, destroying more than 1,000 homes and killing eight people, including four firefighters, authorities say.

Even after years of record-breaking temperatures and increasingly destructive blazes, more people are moving to rural communities surrounded by forests — putting more homes and lives at risk.

Since the early 1990s, the Forest Service has been under pressure from the environmental movement and the timber industry to come up with a strategy acceptable to both. Prompting that pressure was concern over the decline of the California spotted owl in Northern California's forests.

Timber harvesting in Southern California has been largely restricted to post-fire thinning and salvage logging operations in and around alpine communities such as Idyllwild, in the San Jacinto Mountains, and Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains. Most of the marketable wood generated by those efforts was cut and sold as firewood.

Critics contend the proposed logging in the Los Padres is a signal that the balance of power in national forests is shifting under the Trump administration. Such projects could open the door to commercial logging in other public forests currently managed as watersheds rather than timberlands, such as the Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue raised annual timber production targets for the Los Padres National Forest from 200,000 cubic feet of wood in 2017 to 400,000 cubic feet this year.

“We are witnessing a historical change unfolding in the national forests in our own backyard,” said Richard Halsey, founder of the nonprofit Chaparral Institute in Escondido, California. “Timber was never part of the equation, until now.”

Thompson said Halsey misses the point. “We're trying to be proactive,” he said, “so that nature can take its course in a healthy and safe manner.”

Ashley McConnell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said her agency plans to work with the Forest Service to help protect active California condor nest sites or roosting areas.

Logging, she said, could “benefit California condor habitat because the larger and older trees where condors typically roost are preserved.”

To Bryant Baker, conservation director for Los Padres Forest Watch, that kind of talk adds kindling to one of the state's most inflammatory issues.

Logging is a disruptive business, he said, even in the most responsible hands. Access to prime timber stands high in the Los Padres may require new roads that intrude on wilderness and disturb soil, causing erosion, choking streams and degrading water quality.

“Converting these forests to slash piles and commercial logs in a place where California condors were brought back from the brink of extinction would be precedent-setting,” he said. “At stake is the fate of the handful of pine forests scattered across Southern California’s high country.”


__________________________________________________________________________

L.A. Times staff writer Bettina Boxall contributed to this report.

• Louis Sahagun is a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times. He covers issues ranging from religion, culture and the environment to crime, politics and water. He was on the team of L.A. Times writers that earned the Pulitzer Prize in public service for a series on Latinos in Southern California and the team that was a finalist in 2015 for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news. He is a CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California board member, and author of the book, “Master of the Mysteries: the Life of Manly Palmer Hall”.

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« Reply #27 on: August 11, 2018, 01:30:07 am »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times…

EDITORIAL: Tweeting while the state burns

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD  | Tuesday, August 07, 2018

SOME Donald Trump tweets are so bizarre that you have to puzzle over them and inject a bit of sense into them before you can finally dismiss them as the wingnut drivel that they are. So it is with the president's recent tweets on California's fire and water.

“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean,” Trump thumbed on Sunday.

He kept at it on Monday.

“Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water — Nice! Fast Federal government approvals.”

It almost sounds like he's saying that California is burning because all the water that otherwise would be flowing out of fire hoses is instead being flushed into the sea. Or something.

The argument is so weird that even his supporters in the state's agriculture industry appear mystified.

What San Joaquin Valley farmers do want is more delivery of river water to their crops. They oppose recommendations by the State Water Resources Control Board to increase flows in the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers in order to stem environmental damage caused by decades of water diversions for agricultural and urban use. Maybe Trump thought he was sticking up for his agricultural allies.

And isn't it just like Trump to refer to water being “diverted” from rivers to the ocean. That's where rivers flow — to the ocean. Diversion is when water is removed from its natural course and instead used for irrigation and urban faucets. Californians survive on a moderate level of that diversion but will perish if we overdo it.

There has been no shortage of water for firefighters. Much of the state is in flames because of record heat and drought — a phenomenon scientists say is at least in part a result of human-caused climate change.

Trump calls climate change a hoax — an invention, he has said, of the Chinese government to undermine U.S. manufacturing. He rejects the scientific consensus that carbon emissions are making the planet hotter.

Now, adding injury to insult, he is seeking to freeze fuel economy standards and to revoke the Clean Air Act waiver that allows California to require stricter standards on tailpipe emissions than the federal government's.

Trump ignores climate change and tweets his absurd musings about environmental laws and water at a time when fires have killed nine people, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and caused the evacuation of thousands. It reminds us of someone else, way back in Roman days. If only Trump had a fiddle instead of Twitter.


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« Reply #28 on: August 11, 2018, 01:30:18 am »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times…

Fighting a fire with live intelligence from the sky:
A ‘game changer’ in battle against wildfires


Infrared tech gives firefighters knowledge from high up.

By JACLYN COSGROVE | Wednesday, August 08, 2018

A view captured from the International Space Station shows wildfires burning in California last week. — Photograph: Alexander Gerst/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
A view captured from the International Space Station shows wildfires burning in California last week.
 — Photograph: Alexander Gerst/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


WAWONA, CALIFORNIA — The smoke creeping up from a steep hillside near this small community 27 miles south of Yosemite Valley was a sure sign a spot fire was burning, hidden beneath the tall pine trees.

In years past, firefighters might have proceeded with just the limited information provided by a helicopter operator struggling to see through the haze.

Instead, a California Air National Guard aircraft with infrared capability flying thousands of feet above the Ferguson fire was able to determine that firefighters were facing not one spot fire but seven, which were quickly growing together.

Amid weeks of conflagrations and heat waves that have shattered grim records across California, the Ferguson fire has made some good history: It marked the first time incident commanders battling a wildfire have been able to tell firefighters what was being reported from high above the fire in exact detail nearly in real time.

“For firefighting, it's a game changer, no doubt. And it's only going to get better,” said Damian Guilliani, situation unit leader on California Interagency Incident Management Team 4, which helped battle the Ferguson fire.

Firefighting technology in California took a big leap five years ago, when the Guard first used a large drone to fly over the Rim fire in San Diego County. It sent video back to an operations facility.

Since then, the Guard's 163rd Reconnaissance Wing has helped fight more than 20 wildland fires.

The California Air National Guard arrived at the Ferguson fire on July 18, initially employing drones as well as a manned aircraft. (The drones soon were diverted to the Carr and Mendocino Complex fires.)

Command leaders fighting the blaze, which has closed Yosemite Valley indefinitely, have taken the Guard intel and gotten it to their troops on the ground — hotshot crews, incident mapmakers and air assault teams — within 15 minutes.

In coming fire seasons, leaders anticipate that process will become even more efficient.

The Guard's aircraft can fly at night and at high altitudes, above the smoke, recording video via infrared technology. It also can fly around the fire's perimeter faster than a helicopter.

“The technology … is absolutely amazing,” Guilliani said. “Not only can they see live video, but you can actually see at 25,000 feet when they shoot down on the fire line, you can actually see people walking around and see firetrucks through infrared.”

Since it began on July 13 in the Sierra National Forest, the Ferguson fire has burned more than 94,000 acres. On Tuesday, it was at 43% containment, with almost 2,400 firefighters and support personnel working to stop it.

The region's unforgiving landscape — steep, rocky hillsides and cliffs, and deep canyons — has made portions of the wildfire too perilous to reach. Nearly 50% of the Sierra National Forest is wilderness, making it one of the largest contiguous blocks of such land in the continental United States, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Instead of focusing on fighting the fire with a perilous frontal assault, crews have worked for several days to burn a boundary around the fire to keep it from reaching farther into Yosemite National Park and toward the small communities along Highway 41.


Inmate firefighters battle the Ferguson fire in Jerseydale, California on July 22. The fire has burned over 94,000 acres and is 43% contained. — Photograph: Noah Berger/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Inmate firefighters battle the Ferguson fire in Jerseydale, California on July 22. The fire has burned over 94,000 acres and is 43% contained.
 — Photograph: Noah Berger/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


Along with 33 bulldozers, dozens of hotshot crew members have journeyed miles through the forest to carve out a fire line against the spread of flames. Usually a crew — often dropped off by helicopters into the forest — can construct a mile of line in a setting like the Sierra National Forest in one day. Because of the number of fallen trees, killed by drought and a bark beetle infestation throughout the region, they've been lucky to construct one-third a mile of fire line, officials said.

From 2010 to 2017, an estimated 129 million trees have succumbed in California. That includes two areas where the Ferguson fire has burned: 31.8 million dead trees in the Sierra National Forest, and an additional 9 million in the Stanislaus National Forest.

“A fire of this magnitude means there are a lot of different challenges and a lot of different obstacles in firefighters' way,” said Joe Amador, a public information officer. “It's not just about taking a hose up the hill and putting it on the fire and then [the fire] goes away.”

Hand crews have spent days working 16-hour shifts using chain saws, Pulaskis — part ax, part grub hoe — and other tools to clear miles of manzanita and other brush along roads and highways in preparation for back burning. The technique, which involves firefighters burning a line around a wildfire, is designed to slow or stop the blaze by depriving it of fuel.

Clearing brush “makes the burning operation much more safe and effective as a whole,” said Jennifer Martin, a crew boss trainee with the Forest Service overseeing a hand crew of about 20 people last week.

“If we have full brush, it’s going to be throwing embers across,” making it hard to hold the fire line, she said.

Robby Peterson, a Corona battalion chief, said his team was hearing and seeing dead trees fall every few minutes.

To avoid the danger, he said, firefighters do their best to avoid them, trying to make sure they are uphill from the dead trees and being mindful to identify which ones they think might fall.

“Imagine a sparkler that's 150-feet tall that's throwing sparks across our line,” Peterson said. “That's the problem. That's what makes it a challenge. It doesn't take much wind to carry those [embers] because the trees are so high.”

That's part of the reason the California Air National Guard's presence has been so crucial.

By knowing a wildfire's exact behavior in real time, fire chiefs can place firefighters more strategically — and hopefully keep them safer.

Since the Ferguson fire began, two firefighters have been killed.

Cal Fire heavy equipment operator Braden Varney died on July 14 when his bulldozer fell down a steep canyon. Two weeks later, Captain Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots was killed by a falling tree.

The information from Guard aircraft, officials said, will help ensure crews have a more precise idea of what they're up against.

“In 45 years of fighting fires, it's never easy being on an incident where you have fatalities,” said Deputy Incident Commander Rocky Opliger. “This will help us reduce exposure, flat bottom line.”


__________________________________________________________________________

• Jaclyn Cosgrove is a Metro reporter at the Los Angeles Times. Previously, she worked as the health reporter at The Oklahoman. She was selected for a 2015-16 Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. For her fellowship project, she explored the barriers that low-income, uninsured people with mental illnesses face in finding treatment. Cosgrove is originally from Arpelar, Oklahoma, and graduated from Oklahoma State University.

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« Reply #29 on: August 11, 2018, 01:30:29 am »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times…

Fires continue, but gains made: Massive blaze could have been worse

Some evacuees from Mendocino Complex return; others wait.

By ALEJANDRA REYES-VELARDE and ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN | Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Cars and property burned by the Mendocino Complex fire near Clearlake Oaks, California, on Tuesday. The blaze, which is made up of the Ranch and River fires, has consumed more than 292,000 acres in 12 days. — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.
Cars and property burned by the Mendocino Complex fire near Clearlake Oaks, California, on Tuesday. The blaze, which is made up of the Ranch and River fires,
has consumed more than 292,000 acres in 12 days. — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.


UKIAH, CALIFORNIA — Under a smoky haze, Larry Wiedey idled on Tuesday in a parking lot outside a makeshift shelter at Mountain Vista Middle School in Lake County, where several fire refugees had set up cots and parked their cars.

He's been camping there for three nights, displaced by what is now the largest fire on record on California. The Mendocino Complex — made up of the Ranch and River fires — continued to burn on both sides of Clear Lake. By Tuesday night, the complex had consumed more than 292,000 acres in 12 days and was 34% contained. Firefighters took advantage of cooler-than-expected temperatures to strengthen containment lines, slowing fire growth significantly.

“No matter where you live, there's always some form of catastrophe,” said Wiedey, who was camping at the shelter with his wife and their three dogs. “It is what it is.”

A few parking spaces down, Rick Travis was more restless. He said he has made several attempts to skirt past authorities to pick up his van stocked with his necessities: diabetes and allergy medication, food stamps, photos and important papers. He never managed to get through.

In other areas of Lake County on Tuesday, residents were allowed to return home as firefighters gained the upper hand on the River fire, which was 78% contained by Tuesday night. They still had a ways to go on the Ranch fire, which was only 20% contained. Flames were still active along its northern flank, pushing toward Snow Mountain Wilderness.

“We're seeing fire behavior that firefighters have never seen in their careers,” said Steve Kaufman, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “They move faster, they're more erratic, more unpredictable, we have more wind on our fires.”

In the wilderness, firefighters have to adhere to forest protection rules that could slow down containment. For example, they need permission to use bulldozers and other heavy equipment, said Paul Gibbs, a spokesman for the multi-agency fire response.


An air tanker drops fire retardant on the Holy fire burning in Cleveland National Forest above a home in Lake Elsinore on Tuesday afternoon. The fast-moving fire broke out on Monday, burning more than 3,000 acres and forcing evacuations in two Orange County canyons. — Photograph: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times.
An air tanker drops fire retardant on the Holy fire burning in Cleveland National Forest above a home in Lake Elsinore on Tuesday afternoon. The fast-moving fire
broke out on Monday, burning more than 3,000 acres and forcing evacuations in two Orange County canyons. — Photograph: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times.


Despite its massive size, the Mendocino Complex has been far less destructive than other recent California fires. Less than 100 structures have been lost and no one has been killed. That's in marked contrast to last fall's firestorms in wine country, which consumed thousands of homes and killed more than 40 people.

Travis said he knows how much worse things could have been in Lake County.

“I know it's going to be over and I'm glad nobody has been hurt,” he said. “It's just frustrating.”

President Trump said on Tuesday that he was keeping a close eye on the California wildfires, more than a dozen of which have scorched more than 619,000 acres and destroyed more than 2,000 structures across the state. Almost 36,000 residents are still displaced from their homes.

“We're going to have some meetings about it, because there are reasons and there are things you can do to mitigate what’s happening,” Trump said, offering thoughts and prayers to the families who have lost loved ones and praising firefighters. “I've been watching them go into areas where very few people would go. And some of them don't come out alive. They're risking their lives … to contain these devastating fires so they can save our lives. My administration will do everything in our power to protect those in harm's way.”

In Redding, firefighters were hoping favorable weather conditions would help them beat back the deadly Carr fire, which has claimed seven lives. The blaze has slowed in recent days, but continues to challenge firefighters with unpredictable wind shifts and spot fires that jump defensive lines, incident commanders said.

The Carr fire has so far scorched 172,055 acres since a vehicle malfunction sparked it on July 23 on Highway 299 near Whiskeytown Lake. More than 1,000 homes have been destroyed in the fire, which was 47% contained on Tuesday night.

While firefighters have gained ground, the fire's push to the southwest has some officials concerned. Winds could still blow embers that might reignite brush and other fuel sources, and the northern portion of the blaze has continued to burn in rugged terrain where firefighters cannot attack the flames directly.


The Mendocino Complex fire has destroyed nearly 100 structures. Across the state, 619,000 acres have been scorched and 36,000 residents remain displaced. — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.
The Mendocino Complex fire has destroyed nearly 100 structures. Across the state, 619,000 acres have been scorched and 36,000 residents remain displaced.
 — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.


A high-pressure system has kept Redding broiling in the triple-digits in recent days, but it is also keeping a lid on the fire by trapping the smoke in the Sacramento Valley, meteorologists said. The stew of heat and low air quality might be unhealthy for residents and firefighters, but the conditions are also keeping the flames at bay, officials said.

Even as firefighters are making progress on one end of the state, problems continue to spring up in Central and Southern California. A sudden ignition in the Cleveland National Forest in Orange County quickly grew to 3,399 acres on Monday, and the fire was visible from as far away as Catalina Island, producing a towering plume of thick smoke. Authorities had initially estimated the Holy fire's size to be 4,000 acres. By Tuesday night, it was 5% contained.

A fire that broke out in the Stanislaus National Forest had burned 11,344 acres as of Tuesday morning. The fire has been burning since August 1, but grew significantly over the weekend.

Meanwhile, near Yosemite National Park, weather conditions over the last few days have helped firefighters increase containment of the Ferguson fire, which has been burning for 26 days and caused the indefinite closure of Yosemite Valley. As of Tuesday, the deadly wildfire had scorched 94,992 acres and was 43% contained.

“The last couple of days have been good for us,” Incident Commander Mark Von Tillow told reporters on Tuesday.

Firefighters are working desperately to prevent a stubborn finger of the fire from moving northeast and into Yosemite National Park, where it can burn through dead trees and dry vegetation, essentially extending the life of the fire and producing a new set of problems for fire officials.

“It's a critical piece,” said Kelly Martin, chief of fire and aviation management at Yosemite National Park. “There's potential for long-term impact.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Alejandra Reyes-Velarde reported from Ukiah and Alene Tchekmedyian from Los Angeles. L.A. Times staff writers Joseph Serna, Ruben Vives, James Queally and Eli Stokols contributed to this report.

• Alejandra Reyes-Velarde started as a Metpro reporter at the Los Angeles Times in 2017. She previously wrote for the San Francisco Business Times and covered local news and crime for the Sacramento Bee. She received her bachelor's degree in communication studies from UCLA, where she worked at the student-run Daily Bruin. Originally from Duarte, California, Reyes is a native Spanish speaker.

• Alene Tchekmedyian is a Metro reporter at the Los Angeles Times covering breaking news in California. She previously covered Glendale and Burbank police for Times Community News. She received her master's in journalism from Columbia University after graduating from UCLA, where she worked at the student-run Daily Bruin. She currently serves on the UCLA Communications Board, which oversees the university's student-run media publications. She grew up in Huntington Beach.

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« Reply #30 on: August 11, 2018, 01:37:44 am »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times…

How bad could it get in the spat between Trump and California?

Fires, deforestation, tequila tariffs and beyond…

By STEVE LOPEZ | Wednesday, August 08, 2018

LIVING IN CALIFORNIA in the Trump era is like being in a movie inspired by “Groundhog Day”, with each day a little worse than the last.

You wake up and he's coming after us again, tweeting, taunting, twisting the truth.

Are we living in a dream, is this a hallucination, a nightmare?

What follows is what they call “fake news.” But how far off is this from today's surreal reality? Could it be tomorrow's news a day early?

You be the judge.

This just in: Homeland Security officials in California have been ordered by the Trump administration to investigate the president's claim that at least half the state's raging infernos were set by illegal immigrants.

“California's open-border policies have come home to roost as BAD HOMBRES set fire to the state,” Trump wrote in an early morning tweet. “Need that WALL the Democrats REFUSE to fund. INCREDIBLE!”

In a statement from the office of California Governor Jerry Brown, the governor said he had run out of statements. In a later tweet, Brown wrote: “I thought Mexico was going to pay for the wall.”

Trump provided no evidence for his claim but told Fox News that “excellent” sources have informed him of a conspiracy in which “the Hispanics” set fires near housing developments so they will be hired to haul away torched trees and brush, then be hired again to plant new gardens.

“Some of these people are more intelligent than you might give them credit for. Probably smarter than the extremely low IQ Congresswoman Maxine Waters and the DUMB Laker LeBron James,” Trump told Fox News, later clarifying his remarks to say he meant to call both of them idiots.

The president went on to say: “These border crashers vote illegally for LOSER politicians, including crooked Hillary, and believe me, they're committing crimes like you wouldn't believe. When California burns TO THE GROUND, it can blame its own bad immigration and environmental policies. Believe me, that state is so out of control, they've got rivers that empty straight into the ocean! Where else does that happen?”

A source in Brown's office quoted the governor as saying: “I can't believe I ran for president three times and got crushed like a grape but this numbskull is living in the White House.”

As the fire death toll mounted and hundreds of people lost their homes, firefighters worked around the clock while California officials scratched their heads over Trump's claims. They said there has been no shortage of water to battle blazes, and even if there were, an emergency pipeline has been hooked up to siphon water from melted glaciers down to California.

Trump also tweeted, “Must tree clear to stop fire from spreading.”

It was unclear what the president meant until his administration released a plan to chop down Los Padres National Forest and half of Yosemite. A Trump spokesperson denied a claim by a White House source that the lumber would be used to build the border wall and that Trump would force Mexico to pay for it by imposing a 50% tariff on all Jose Cuervo products.

“The tequila tariff is FAKE NEWS by disgusting enemies of the people!!!” Trump tweeted during a brief break from making conflicting statements about everything, including whether his wonderful son colluded with Russian officials to torpedo Hillary Clinton. “But maybe it's not such a bad idea.”

Meanwhile, less than two hours after news broke of the Trump plan to de-forest California, First Lady Melania Trump tweeted to say she will be arriving in Los Angeles later this week to plant trees, drink as many margaritas as possible and hang out at one of LeBron James' pizza restaurants.

“I don't think this is a marriage so much as a book deal for Melania,” a publishing executive said in explaining why she hasn't moved out. “The longer she stays with him, the higher the price for a tell-all.”

Following Trump's comments about the cause of the state's deadly fires, California education officials were meeting in emergency session to rev up mindfulness training for all K-12 teachers.

“A student who is told by the president of the United States that man-made global warming is a hoax and that California's progressive mileage and emission standards are ridiculous — in the midst of record-high heat and historic firestorms — brings a great deal of stress into the classroom,” said a high-ranking education official.

“We think it's important that students devote the first hour of each day to meditation and calmness coaching, particularly the thousands of children who are dropped off in cars powered by vegetable oil and static electricity,” said the official. “The next three hours of the school day will be spent on the science of sustainability, with an emphasis on debunking popular Trump-ally views that global warming, if it exists, is caused by volcanoes, sun spots and flatulence.”

Some California education officials are also advocating for six hours weekly of gun control education. That's in response to this week's news that in the six months since the Parkland, Florida, school shooting left 17 people dead, Trump's school safety commission has actively limited or suppressed discussion of gun control.

“President Trump has a buddy — a talk show host — who insisted the Sandy Hook slaughter that took the lives of 20 children was staged by actors,” said the state education official. “If we don’t accelerate conflict resolution training within our mindfulness academies, we might as well all move to Texas and join the NRA.”

In a tweet, President Trump wrote that he mis-spoke when he said earlier this year that teachers should be armed.

“What I meant to say, and it should have been obvious to everyone, was that teachers, custodians and crossing guards should ALL be armed,” Trump wrote. “Automatic weapons are extremely effective, but what ever happened to bazookas?”

By midday Tuesday, California's attorney general had filed an additional 15 lawsuits against the Trump administration, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection began tree clearing at the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Across the state, sales of Jose Cuervo spiked in anticipation of a possible tariff. San Francisco declared itself a tequila tariff sanctuary city, with free shots for everyone who can prove they're undocumented.

Trump's repeated attacks on California, meanwhile, have created gantlets at supermarket entrances, with voters asked to sign initiatives that would give California back to Mexico, make it part of Hawaii or make the state a nation unto itself.

A spokesman, speaking on behalf of Brown, said: “Haven't we already done that?”


__________________________________________________________________________

• Steve Lopez is a California native who has been a Los Angeles Times columnist since 2001. He has won more than a dozen national journalism awards for his reporting and column writing at seven newspapers and four news magazines, and is a three-time Pulitzer finalist for commentary — in 2012, for his columns on elder care; in 2016, for his columns on income inequality in California; and in 2018, for his columns on housing and homelessness. He is the author of three novels, two collections of columns and a non-fiction work called “The Soloist”, which was a Los Angeles Times and New York Times best-seller, winner of the PEN USA Literary Award for Non-Fiction, and the subject of a Dream Works movie by the same name. Lopez's television reporting for public station KCET has won three local news Emmys, three Golden Mike awards and a share of the Columbia University DuPont Award.

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« Reply #31 on: August 11, 2018, 01:37:57 am »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times…

Fighting more than fire: Massive fires, daunting terrain

Crews contend with steep slopes, snakes — and a blaze of record size

By ALEJANDRA REYES-VELARDE and ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN | Thursday, August 09, 2018

Firefighters monitor a burn operation near Lodoga in the battle against the Mendocino Complex fire. Its remote location, in rugged, forested terrain where no fire engine can reach, is a big reason it rapidly grew into the largest in California history. — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.
Firefighters monitor a burn operation near Lodoga in the battle against the Mendocino Complex fire. Its remote location, in rugged, forested terrain where
no fire engine can reach, is a big reason it rapidly grew into the largest in California history. — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.


UKIAH, CALIFORNIA — For Trey Rosenbalm and Ariana Altier, fighting the largest fire in California history takes more than just watching out for flames.

The Mendocino Complex fire is ravaging thick brush deep in the Mendocino National Forest, so getting close to the front lines to attack flames directly is almost impossible.

They hike several miles per day up steep slopes wearing hefty gear and carrying heavy bags of equipment on their backs. Then there's the wildlife they have to watch out for — rattlesnakes, scorpions and poisonous plants.

“You don't know what your next step is, whether you could go into a ditch or loose brush,” said Rosenbalm, a firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service who like others is working 24-hour shifts every other day.

“You go to sleep tired, that's for sure,” Altier said.

The remote location is a big reason why the stubborn Mendocino Complex — made up of the Ranch and River fires flanking Clear Lake — raced into the record books. When the fires exploded nearly two weeks ago above the lake, crews were faced with an urgent choice.

Flames were threatening lakeside communities while also burning rapidly into forestland to the north and west. The fires were among many burning across California, so resources were tight. Crews focused on protecting communities, using bulldozers to cut fire lines above homes in a mission that was largely successful. As of Wednesday night, 119 homes had been lost and no one had been killed, a sharp contrast from the destructive Carr fire to the north that consumed more than 1,000 homes and killed seven people.

But the Mendocino Complex fire rapidly moved into forestland, where it was difficult to place firefighters. There the flames burned through dry brush at an unprecedented rate.

“The fire was so unpredictable that it wasn't worth putting firefighters in the middle of the wilderness,” said Steve Kaufman, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “There's no way to drive fire engines to the middle of the forest.”

Kaufman and others said difficult-to-access terrain was a major factor in the unprecedented size of Mendocino Complex, which topped more than 300,000 acres as of Wednesday afternoon. Unchecked, the fire was able to push through rolling tree-covered hills, flat grassland and rugged canyons.

“There's nearly every type of fuel you can imagine: timber, thick brush, light flashy fuels,” said Ron Oatman, a Cal Fire spokesman.


Near Lakeport, California, a firefighter works against the River fire, which combined with the Ranch fire to create the Mendocino Complex, now exceeding 300,000 acres. More than 14,000 firefighters are contending with over a dozen major wildfires state-wide. — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.
Near Lakeport, California, a firefighter works against the River fire, which combined with the Ranch fire to create the Mendocino Complex, now exceeding
300,000 acres. More than 14,000 firefighters are contending with over a dozen major wildfires state-wide. — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.


Dmitri Menzel, a battalion chief with the Novato Fire District, said working on a fire that's burning in remote areas is exhausting. “It's dirty, it's dusty. You drive miles and miles to just get to the fire's edge.”

On Wednesday, he was working on the River fire, which had no movement overnight and was 81% contained by dusk.

“It's a more relaxed day for us,” he said. “A little less work, but we're still maintaining diligence. The intensity of the fires in these last few years is pretty extreme.”

Longer, hotter and more destructive fires are leaving California firefighters exhausted, dealing with new stresses they didn't have to endure 10 years ago. Firefighters are being pulled up and down the state to different fires at unexpected moments and spending more time in the field — up to a month or more — without seeing family.

“Being away from home is rough,” said Kioni Sodaria, a firefighter from the Central Calaveras Fire Department. “You got to tell yourself, this is what we have to do.”

With a fire that's burning in more remote areas, there are also fewer opportunities to use man-made barriers to stop the flames, Oatman said. And firefighters have to adhere to federal laws that protect the forest.

For instance, they need permission to use bulldozers and other mechanized equipment, a process that takes time, said Paul Gibbs, spokesman for the multiagency fire response.

“The agencies take that very seriously,” Gibbs said. “They want to make sure other opportunities have been looked at.”

After the first few days, the Mendocino Complex fire began threatening more communities along Clear Lake. But by then firefighters had prepared, building fire lines with bulldozers and using aircraft to dump more than a million gallons of fire retardant on the mountain ridges towering over the towns of Lucerne and Nice.

“Those fire lines are doing pretty good right now. Most are holding pretty well,” said Mitch Bosna, a spokesman with Cal Fire.


Many firefighters have been working 24-hour shifts every other day in the battle against the Mendocino Complex, surrounding Clear Lake, California. — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.
Many firefighters have been working 24-hour shifts every other day in the battle against the Mendocino Complex, surrounding Clear Lake, California.
 — Photograph: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times.


From his Lucerne home, Larry Wiedey watched the flames, which seemed to be just blocks away. “I would've thought that was it,” he said. “I thought, we have to get the hell out of here.”

Camping out in a Kelseyville evacuation center early this week, he thought he'd lose his home. But he was amazed to learn later that firefighters kept the fire from coming down the slopes into the town.

Now that they have more of a handle on the fire near residential areas, the focus is shifting to securing fire lines ahead of the blaze to the north. That means continuing to dig lines with hand crews and bulldozers and being prepared to hose down the area. Crews are also setting back fires to get ahead of out-of-control flames and burn out their fuel.

More than 14,000 firefighters are battling more than a dozen major blazes up and down the state that have charred more than 644,000 acres and made this one of California's worst fire seasons. It turned into an international battle this week, with firefighters from Australia and New Zealand joining crews at the front lines.

“We'll see at the end if it will become the worst,” said Jonathan Cox, battalion chief and public information officer with Cal Fire's communication office. “We're pretty early on in peak fire season until we get rain. Each day that passes, the fire fuels will get drier.”

Near Redding, the Carr fire continues to burn in steep terrain, consuming timber as firefighters keep building fire lines ahead of the flames. The blaze has burned 176,069 acres and is 47% contained.

Near Yosemite National Park, firefighters made significant progress on the Ferguson fire, which is at 94,992 acres and 68% contained. Yosemite Valley remained closed to visitors, while some roads were reopened.

The Holy fire in the Cleveland National Forest pushed closer to homes, prompting a new round of mandatory evacuations. While 15,000 residents are still displaced, fire experts worry the worst is yet to come as Southern California will soon see Santa Ana winds resurfacing and potentially creating fire threats while the blazes up north continue to burn.

“We're hoping we can get control of the fires and get our crews off the fire lines, get them to rest before the next fire breaks out,” Cox said.

J Olsen, a Central Calaveras firefighter, said the fires are a never-ending battle. “It's a marathon that just keeps getting longer and longer,” he said. “Every season I go into it thinking it's going to be the worst season we've seen yet.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Alejandra Reyes-Velarde reported from Ukiah and Alene Tchekmedyian from Los Angeles. L.A. Times staff writers Ruben Vives and James Queally in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

• Alejandra Reyes-Velarde started as a Metpro reporter at the Los Angeles Times in 2017. She previously wrote for the San Francisco Business Times and covered local news and crime for the Sacramento Bee. She received her bachelor's degree in communication studies from UCLA, where she worked at the student-run Daily Bruin. Originally from Duarte, California, Reyes is a native Spanish speaker.

• Alene Tchekmedyian is a Metro reporter at the Los Angeles Times covering breaking news in California. She previously covered Glendale and Burbank police for Times Community News. She received her master's in journalism from Columbia University after graduating from UCLA, where she worked at the student-run Daily Bruin. She currently serves on the UCLA Communications Board, which oversees the university's student-run media publications. She grew up in Huntington Beach.

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« Reply #32 on: August 11, 2018, 01:43:41 am »


from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times…

Man arrested in Holy fire

Suspect to face arson charges as blaze spurs more evacuations in Riverside County.

By RUBEN VIVES, ALEJANDRA REYES-VELARDE and JAMES QUEALLY | Thursday, August 09, 2018

Flames approach homes in the McVicker Canyon neighborhood of Lake Elsinore on Wednesday. The growth of the Holy fire came on another day of record high temperatures in parts of Southern California. — Photograph: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times.
Flames approach homes in the McVicker Canyon neighborhood of Lake Elsinore on Wednesday. The growth of the Holy fire came on another day of record high
temperatures in parts of Southern California. — Photograph: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times.


THE HOLY FIRE in the Cleveland National Forest pushed closer to some Riverside County homes on Wednesday, prompting a new round of mandatory evacuations as authorities arrested a man suspected of igniting the blaze.

The fire, which has burned 6,200 acres, forced evacuations in McVicker Canyon, Rice Canyon, Horsethief Canyon, El Cariso, Rancho Capistrano, Indian Canyon, Glen Eden, Sycamore Creek and Mayhew Canyon, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The Ortega Highway corridor from Lookout Roadhouse to Nichols Institute was also included in the evacuation order.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of felony arson, one count of felony threat to terrorize and one count of misdemeanor resisting arrest in connection with the ignition of the Holy fire.

It was not immediately clear how the fire was set. Clark was booked on Wednesday and was being held on $1-million bond.

Susan Schroeder, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office, said it would file criminal charges against Clark.

“We expect to bring him to justice for these terrible crimes,” she said.

Clark is slated to appear in court on Thursday, records show.


The home of a man suspected of arson stands intact amid burned-out houses in Trabuco Canyon. — Photograph: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times.
The home of a man suspected of arson stands intact amid burned-out houses in Trabuco Canyon. — Photograph: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times.

The Holy fire, which was 5% contained and burning toward Horsethief Canyon and McVicker Drainage, broke out on Monday and has destroyed 12 structures.

The fire's growth came on another day of record high temperatures in parts of Southern California. Los Angeles International Airport hit a new high for the day at 94 degrees. UCLA, Camarillo and Escondido also hit new highs, while Santa Ana and Newport Beach tied their daily records.

Expected higher humidity and cooler temperatures could aid firefighters as they build containment lines around the blaze, which has ripped through chaparral and brush.

Eighteen wildfires that continue to burn across the state have scorched more than 644,000 acres, an area about the size of Sacramento County. The largest is the Mendocino Complex — made up of the Ranch and River fires — which has burned more than 300,000 acres and is the biggest fire ever recorded in California. It was 47% contained as of Wednesday evening.


__________________________________________________________________________

• Ruben Vives is a general assignment reporter for the Los Angeles Times. A native of Guatemala, he got his start in journalism by writing for the L.A. Times' Homicide Report in 2007. He helped uncover the financial corruption in the city of Bell that led to criminal charges against eight city officials. The 2010 investigative series won the Pulitzer Prize for public service and other prestigious awards.

• Alejandra Reyes-Velarde started as a Metpro reporter at the Los Angeles Times in 2017. She previously wrote for the San Francisco Business Times and covered local news and crime for the Sacramento Bee. She received her bachelor's degree in communication studies from UCLA, where she worked at the student-run Daily Bruin. Originally from Duarte, California, Reyes is a native Spanish speaker.

• James Queally writes about crime and policing in Southern California. Since coming to the Los Angeles Times he has also traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, and Cleveland to cover large-scale protests involving police use-of-force and the 2016 election. A Brooklyn native, he came to the L.A. Times in 2014 after covering crime and police news for the Star-Ledger in New Jersey. In that time he profiled Frank Lucas, the drug kingpin who inspired the film “American Gangster” and wrote a series of stories that revealed how the state's largest police departments failed to solve thousands of non-fatal shootings, which led to policy changes.

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