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El Dorado Blaze Sparked By Gender Reveal Firework Threatens Thousands Of Homes

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Published
The El Dorado Fire broke out Sept. 5, 2020, in the San Bernardino National Forest. Zach Behrens/Courtesy of US Forest Service

Editor's note: This story is no longer being updated. For our latest coverage of the El Dorado Fire, click here.

The El Dorado fire began on Saturday with a bang – literally – when a firework from a gender reveal party in Yucaipa ignited a blaze that has grown to more than 9,600 acres, threatening thousands of homes and causing the mandatory evacuation of 21,000 residents.

In a press release about the cause, Cal Fire reminded the public that it doesn't take much to start a fire, and "those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible."

The blaze is still fast-moving.

“The fire is predominantly going in the northeastern direction,” said Kathy Mattingly, a public information officer with Cal Fire San Bernardino. “We’ve been dealing with 12 to 15 mile per hour gusts in the lower elevations, with gusts of up to 25 miles per hour at the ridgeline.”

Poor air quality and extreme heat are also working against the crews.

She said firefighters' priority remains the protection of the thousands of homes that are threatened, as well as small ranches and barns in the foothills.

Mattingly warned that more evacuation orders could be issued, depending on the fire's behavior.

“This is still an expanding situation,” she said. “If you’re in an evacuation warning area, we ask that you gather your belongings. If you have livestock, evacuate them early, maybe to a friend’s ranch in another area that is safe.”

On Saturday, firefighters had to deal with intense conditions, causing this fire whirl:

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 9,671 acres
  • Containment: 7%
  • Resources deployed: 527 personnel, 10 crews, 10 water tenders, 60 engines, 10 dozers, 4 helicopters

EVACUATIONS

Mandatory:

  • Areas east of Bryant from Carter South to Yucaipa Boulevard, then east on Yucaipa Boulevard at Bryant intersection to Freemont Street, then south to Grande View Drive, then along Ave E southeast to the intersection of Mesa Grande, east to Wildwood Canyon Road to include all portions of Hidden Meadows, and east to Edgar Canyon Road
  • The portion of the Cherry Valley Community that is north of Orchard Street to the County Line, and east of Nancy Avenue and west of Beaumont Avenue
  • Oak Glen (partial, see road closures), Mountain Home Village, Forest Falls and North Bench Yucaipa (north of Carter Street to Highway 38 and both sides of Bryant Street east & west)

Voluntary:

  • East of Beaumont Ave east to Hillside Place in the Highland Springs area, north to Cherry Valley Boulevard to the County Line Road.

EVACUATION CENTER

  • Cafeteria of the Redlands East Valley High School, 31000 E. Colton Ave. Redlands
  • NOTE: This center moved from it's initial location: Yucaipa Community Center, 34900 Oak Glen Rd, Yucaipa

ROAD CLOSURES:

  • Highway 38 at Bryant Street in Yucaipa and the community of Angelus Oaks
  • Bryant Street between Hwy 38 and Carter Street
  • Oak Glen Road between Pine Bench Road and Cherry Croft Drive
  • Cross Streets east of Bryant Street between Yucaipa Boulevard and Carter Street
  • There is a "soft closure" on Highway 38 at Lake Williams Dr. (south of Big Bear, CA) to warn drivers of the closure in Angelus Oaks

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

This is a developing story. We fact check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.

FIRE RESOURCES

YOUR QUESTIONS OR IDEAS

Bobcat Fire Prompts Evacuation At Mt. Wilson Observatory

Updated
Published
(Courtesy of Angeles National Forest)

Editor's note: This story is no longer being updated. For our latest coverage of the Bobcat Fire, click here.

A brush fire that erupted near the Cogswell Dam above the city of Azusa on Sunday has spread rapidly amid an intense, record-breaking heat wave, prompting evacuation orders for Mt. Wilson Observatory.

By Monday afternoon, the fire had grown to 4,871 acres and remained 0% contained — numbers that remained unchanged into the night.

Numerous television and radio stations have transmitters in the area, including our newsroom which broadcasts on the radion at 89.3 KPCC.

Video from cameras placed near the observatory captured the steady approach of flames.

The Mount Wilson Observatory houses 18 telescopes, many of which were used to make some of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the last century.

They include the 100 inch Hooker telescope that Edwin Hubble used in the 1920s to prove that our universe is still expanding.

Observatory Director Tom Meneghini said he's afraid they could be seriously impacted if the fire gets close enough.

“The heat can do irreparable damage. Our two big telescopes are historically significant and irreplaceable,” Meneghini said.

However, he said fires have gotten close before and the decades-old firefighting setup at the Observatory is ready to be used again.

"We have an inground system of hoses and pumps," he said. "We have half a million gallons of water ready to pump so that’s all been prepared for any fire professional to come in and take over."

The fire also threatens a seismic station that has recorded earthquake activity for 100 years, seismologist Lucy Jones said via Twitter.

THE BASICS:

  • Acreage: 4,871 acres
  • Containment: 0%
  • Resources Deployed: 101 personnel

AIR QUALITY:

Thick smoke has made the sun appear red in some places and cast an ominous orange glow over the region.

Across Southern California, the air quality level is projected to be moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups. Bottom line: If you can see it or smell it, then you should take precautions. Stay indoors and check the current air quality before attempting outdoor activities.

You can look it up at airnow.gov.

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

This is a developing story. We fact check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:

FIRE RESOURCES

YOUR QUESTIONS OR IDEAS

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All Of California's National Forests Closed Or Restricted Amid Record Heat And Wildfires

Updated
Published
A firefighter douses flames during the Creek fire in Sierra National Forest (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

With all the wildfires and extreme heat, and with Santa Ana winds on the way, all of California's national forests are being shut down temporarily or seeing increased restrictions.

The U.S. Forest Service announced the closures Monday, along with additional prohibitions, as two new wildfires broke out in Southern California, threatening homes in San Bernardino County and critical instruments and transmitters up at Mt. Wilson Observatory.

The national forest closures include:

  • Stanislaus
  • Sierra
  • Sequoia
  • Inyo
  • Los Padres
  • Angeles
  • San Bernardino
  • Cleveland

All other national forest lands in the state are now subject to the following restrictions:

  • Prohibition of all ignition sources (campfires, gas stoves, etc.)
  • All campgrounds and day-use sites closed

“The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously," said Randy Moore, Regional Forester for the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, in a written statement.

"Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire. We are bringing every resource to bear nationally and internationally to fight these fires, but until conditions improve, and we are confident that National Forest visitors can recreate safely, the priority is always to protect the public and our firefighters."

This is the first time going back decades that so many forests have been closed at the same time.

The San Bernardino National Forest was closed in October 2007 during two wind-driven fires. In 2003, during the Old Fire in the mountains above San Bernardino all the way out to Big Bear, the forests were closed and all residents were cleared out, some 25,000 people forced off the mountain.

The move is a precaution as Santa Ana winds are expected to come blasting through the mountains in the next few days, making the brush even drier and more flammable.

In addition, many firefighters are already working other fires in really brutal conditions. They say they’ve been seeing what they call extreme fire behavior – fire that moves really fast, with embers flying far ahead of the main fire line and expanding the footprint of the fire.

The Forest Service says its firefighters and equipment are also stretched to the limit. Their firefighters – and many from the other agencies that come in to help – have been out in 110 or higher temperatures in some places.

The measures go into effect at 5 p.m. Monday and will be re-evaluated daily, according to the forest service.

Some of the areas were actually already closed. The river-adjacent playgrounds along the west fork of the San Gabriel River were evacuated yesterday when the Bobcat Fire broke out. If you’ve ever been up there on a hot day, you know it’s an extremely popular place to sit in the shade of the trees that grow right on the river bank.

Forest Service spokesman Jonathan Groveman says they are not closing the roads through all those forests. The thousands of people who live in vacation cabins and year-round homes in those areas will not be forced to leave.

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Charged At Age 15, 34-Year-Old Compton Man To Be Released From Prison

Updated
Published
An exterior view of San Quentin State Prison, where Emom Barnes served 19 years. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A 34-year-old Compton man is set to be released from jail after serving nearly 20 years for attempted murder.

Emom Barnes was 15 when he was tried as an adult and sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. The Project for the Innocent at Loyola Law School took up the case six years ago, and eventually, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office reviewed Barnes’s prison record and recent changes in juvenile sentencing laws.

Attorney Michael Petersen says that prompted the D.A. to send the court a motion to re-sentence Barnes based on current law.

“His first chance at parole would have been when he was 55 years old,” Petersen said. “Today, California doesn’t let that happen anymore. The law has changed so that 15-year-olds cannot be tried in adult court. And they can’t be sentenced to something like 40 years-to-life.”

With new sentencing guidelines, Barnes has already done his time. He is expected to be released this week, after serving 19 years in San Quentin State Prison.

Project for the Innocent continues to work on proving Barnes was never guilty. Petersen says a juror tried to take back their decision after Barnes was tried, and that evidence consisted of a single eyewitness account.

Attorney Laurie Levenson told the L.A. Times that the attempted murder charges stemmed from two shootings tied to gang activity in Compton.

MORE ON BARNES CASE

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Michael Petersen's last name as Petersene.

No Parade For Wilmington's 41st Annual Labor Day. This Year Organizers Are Giving Away Food

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L.A. Food Bank is among the organizations supporting the Labor Day food giveaway in Wilmington (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Labor Day is usually a cause for big public gatherings in Los Angeles. But this year the pandemic has made the usual festivities impossible. So local labor unions are shifting gears.

The annual Labor Day Parade and Picnic in Wilmington usually has a big turnout. Organizers estimate that 15,000 people showed up last year.

But for the first time in 41 years, the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Labor Coalition is canceling the annual event due to public health concerns.

Instead, the organized labor group plans to mark Labor Day by distributing food to people who’ve lost their jobs.

  • The goal is to feed 3,500 families.
  • Organizers say the event will be drive-through only in order to ensure plenty of social distancing.
  • Recipients can pull up, pop their trunks, and volunteers will load them with groceries.

“We didn't plan this last year, but things have to change in this country,” said Chairman Larry Barragan. “This year, we're going to actually feed people. It's going to be different.”

At a time when unemployment in L.A. County has soared to nearly 18%, Barragan said Labor Day has taken on a new meaning. The job losses have been especially high among union members in the hotel industry and those connected to local airports.

Food distribution will take place on this morning from 9 a.m. to noon at Banning Park in Wilmington.

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As Schools Reopen In Orange County, Who’s Making Sure They’re Doing It Safely?

Updated
Published
St. John's Lutheran in the city of Orange has spaced desks further apart (Courtesy Jake Hollatz)

This week, more schools in Orange County with approved reopening waivers are planning to welcome students and staff back on to campus for in-person learning. Most of them are private schools, though Los Alamitos Unified will also be reopening its elementary campuses with a “hybrid” model, too.

But who’s actually making sure those schools are adhering to their promised safety plans?

To apply for and obtain a waiver to reopen, school and district officials had to submit their reopening plans to county and state public health officials.

I read through a bunch of them and they list a variety of modifications.

  • In Harbor Day School’s application, for example, school officials say they hired an additional janitor to “provide routine cleaning of door handles, faucets, bathrooms,outdoor furniture and equipment, handrails, etc.”
  • In Los Alamitos Unified’s safety plan, district officials assert that each of the school’s campuses will have “a designated isolation room to hold staff or students who show symptoms while at school.”

Almost all of the schools that have applied in Orange County have had their reopening plans approved. None had been denied as of September 4.

What’s unclear, though, is how the county plans to make sure schools follow through on their safety plans.

I spoke with the principal of a school that reopened last month, St. John’s Lutheran in the city of Orange. He said after the waiver was officially approved, public health officials didn’t check in on his school as they prepared to reopen.

And at the county’s most recent press update, officials confirmed that there are no “on-site reviews of schools,” saying that wasn’t part of the criteria laid out by the state.

Margaret Bredehoft, the deputy agency director for public health services explained:

“We're just here for support. It is probably incumbent upon the schools to be able to adhere to that.”

Bredehoft added that the county health officials do have weekly calls with superintendents and school officials.

“That's about the extent of our enforcement,” Bredehoft said.

County Executive Officer Frank Kim later added that if officials did discover that a school had reopened without following the proper procedures, he’d “absolutely have a discussion with my health officer about potentially taking enforcement action” – including closing down the school – and that they’d also consult with the state as part of that process.

“I think it's very important for us to protect our children,” Kim said.

The California Department of Public Health briefly touches on enforcement in its FAQ on school reopenings. Referring to the Governor’s executive orders, the department says violations of state public health orders are misdemeanors, and violators could be fined.

We will continue to follow and report on the reopening of schools. If you have information or experiences you think we should know about, you can reach out to me – reporter Carla Javier – at cjavier@scpr.org.

FOR MORE OF OUR REPORTING ON SCHOOL REOPENINGS AND WAIVERS:

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Morning Briefing: Heat Didn't Stop Black Lives Matter Demonstrations

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Published
Protesters gather outside the South Los Angeles sheriff’s station to protest the death of Dijon Kizzee at the hands of deputies in South Los Angeles. (Brian Feinzimer/LAist)

Never miss a morning briefing. Subscribe today to get our A.M. newsletter delivered to your inbox.

The weekend’s extraordinary heat shut down power, flooded the beaches and stoked fires, but it didn’t stop protesters from demanding justice in the killing of Dijon Kizzee, a 29-year-old man who was fatally shot by Sheriff’s deputies on Aug. 31.

Demonstrators gathered outside the L.A. Sheriff Department’s South L.A. station on Saturday afternoon for a rally, then marched towards the 110 Freeway, which they closed down for about 30 minutes.

By evening, things had taken a violent turn, reported KPCC’s Josie Huang. For reasons that are still unclear, Sheriff’s deputies fired so-called “less-than-lethal” projections, including munitions and chemical irritants, into the crowd of protesters and journalists.

The LASD did not provide a statement by our Sunday deadline.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, September 7

A number of Orange County elementary schools have been granted waivers to open in person this week. But is anyone checking to make sure they're sticking to guidelines? Carla Javier reports.

Today would have been the 41st annual Labor Day parade in Wilmington. Instead, union organizers are staging a "Labor of Love" event, with a goal of giving out food to 3,500 families. It's a sign of the massive need generated by a pandemic that has thrown millions of people out of work, reports David Wagner.

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The Past 48 Hours In LA

Policing The Police: Saturday's march for Dijon Kizzee, the man killed by deputies in South L.A. on Aug. 31, started under the blazing sun and ended about five hours later, as deputies launched munitions and chemical irritants at protesters and journalists.

Heat And Fire: Sunday's unusually hot weather spiked consumer demand for energy, and heat-related equipment issues caused scattered power outages across Southern California. The Bobcat Fire broke out Sunday in the Angeles National Forest, near Cogswell Dam and the West Fork Picnic area. The El Dorado Fire near Yucaipa prompted evactuations.

Accountability In 2020: Manhattan Beach code enforcement officers worked diligently to ticket unmasked beachgoers – to moderate success. The Trump administration must, for now, stop winding down in-person counting efforts for the 2020 census.


Photo Of The Day

A protester holding an American flag faces off with CHP vehicles while marching over the death of Dijon Kizzee in South Los Angeles.

(Brian Feinzimer/LAist)

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