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Bobcat Fire: Blaze Grows To Over 112K Acres; Dozens Of Structures Destroyed Or Damaged

Updated
Published
Lights from a firetruck illuminate firefighters working the Bobcat Fire burning near Cedar Springs in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 21, 2020. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

This story is no longer being updated. Follow our coverage of the Bobcat Fire for Wednesday, Sept. 23 >>

Yesterday's coverage:

The Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest continues to burn into its 17th day. The blaze has grown aggressively in recent days, driven by strong wind gusts. As of Tuesday evening, the fire surpassed 112,000 acres. It's now been one of the largest wildfires in Los Angeles County history for several days.

Officials report that the fire remained very active today and continues to be driven by winds creating spot fires as far as one mile from the fire's multiple fronts.

"All critical thresholds for large fire growth are being exceeded," according to the fire's online incident page.

Late Monday, Mt. Wilson was again under serious threat from the fire, after several successful efforts to hold the flames back. It's not yet clear if any structures were damaged or destroyed, though video streams from cameras mounted at the peak show just how close the fire burned overnight.

Residents near Camp Colby were ordered on Monday to evacuate as the western front of the blaze advanced toward them.

Firefighters are hard at work in the northern section of the fire, which has threatened homes and forced evacuations in the foothill communities bordering the Antelope Valley.

During a virtual community meeting Monday evening, a Los Angeles County Fire Department official said at least 29 structures had been damaged or destroyed. That number is expected to rise as damage assessment continues.

Fire officials said today they will continue work on a "defensive strategic firing operation" to create a buffer line between Mt. Wilson and Highway 2. With similar work to protect structures continuing on the other fire fronts. They said they expect fire behavior similar to yesterday.

Here's what else we know about the fire so far today.

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 112,993 acres
  • Containment: 17%
  • Structures destroyed/damaged: At least 29 (full damage assessment pending)
  • Resources deployed: 1,513 firefighters

The fire erupted on Sept. 6 near the Cogswell Dam and then spread rapidly amid an intense, record-breaking heat wave, prompting evacuation orders for Mt. Wilson Observatory. The cause is under investigation.

Angeles National Forest officials said they expect similar fire conditions to what they experienced Monday. Wind is forecasted to blow east, then shift south later in the day.

"The defensive strategic firing operation to secure line between Mt. Wilson and Highway 2 will continue and should be completed today," officials wrote on the fire incident page today.

Forest officials said L.A. County residents shouldn't be surprised to see plumes of smoke and aircraft north of Mt. Wilson as crews remain hard at work.

To the west, crews are working to build containment lines north of Highway 2 to keep the fire in check and defend structures.

North in the Antelope Valley, firefighters continue to carve out containment lines and mop up hot spots.

In the northeastern section of the burn area, "crews will be looking for opportunities to construct line to stop any further spread to the east," officials said.

To the south and along the Highway 39 corridor, firefighters continue to patrol and mop up as needed.

EVACUATIONS

Mandatory

Emergency officials issued evacuation orders for residents in the following areas as of Monday afternoon:

    • Residences along Angeles Crest Hwy, between Angeles Forest Hwy and Hwy 39.
    • The unincorporated areas of Crystal Lake, East Fork of the San Gabriel River, and Camp Williams.
    • Communities of Pearblossom, Juniper Hills, Valyermo, and Llano. (Except for the Longview section, which is under a warning)
    • South and west of Upper Big Tujunga, east of Angeles Forest Hwy, and north of Angeles Crest Hwy.
The Bobcat Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 21, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Warnings

  • Pasadena and Altadena: north of Sierra Madre Bl., west of Michillinda Av, east of Washington Bl., north of New York Dr. and north of New York Drive & Woodbury Dr., east of Hahamongna Watershed Park.
  • Wrightwood.
  • Littlerock: South of Pearblossom Hwy, north of Weber Ranch Rd., east of Cheseboro Rd., and west of 87th St. East.
  • South of Hwy 2, north of Blue Ridge Truck Trail, east of Hwy 39, and west of the Los Angeles Co. border.
  • Longview: South of Ave U-8, north of East Ave W-14, east of 121st East, and west of 155th St East.
  • South of Pearblossom Hwy (Hwy 138), south and east of Pearblossom Hwy (Hwy 122), north and west of Mt. Emma Rd., north and east of Angeles Forest Hwy, and west of Cheseboro Rd.
  • South of Mt. Emma Rd., north of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Rd., east of Angeles Forest Highway, and west of Pacifico Mountain.

SHELTER SITES

The Red Cross has established a temporary evaction point at Palmdale High School, 2137 East Avenue R. Accomodations for 300 large animals are available at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, 2551 W. Avenue H, Lancaster.

Shelter for small animals is available at Lancaster Animal Care Center, 5210 West Ave. I, and Palmdale Animal Care Center, 38550 Sierra Highway.

A shelter site for up to 300 horses and cattle has been established at the Pomona Fairplex, 2201 N. White Ave. Officials there can be reached at 909-576-9272.

A firefighter watches as the Bobcat Fire burns near Cedar Springs in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 21, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

CLOSURES

  • The Angeles National Forest remains closed through at least Sept. 24
  • All roads leading into San Gabriel Canyon
  • State Route 39 is closed from north of Azusa to State Route 2
  • State Route 2 is closed from Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road to Big Pines
  • Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road between State Route 2 and Angeles Forest Highway
  • Mt. Wilson Road from State Route 2 to Mt. Wilson
  • Chantry Flat Road
  • Fort Tejon / Valyermo Road
  • Valyermo Road / Bob's Gap Road
  • Big Pines Highway / Largo Vista Road
  • Big Pines Highway / Mescal Creek Road
  • Big Pines Highway / Highway 2

WEATHER AND AIR QUALITY

We're experiencing a cooling trend, which is projected to last through mid-week. Humidity and temperature is largely unchanged from Monday. Wind gusts are expected to be about 20 to 30 mph.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued a smoke advisory for the region, which is in place through this afternoon. The impact from the Bobcat, El Dorado and Snow fires is creating unhealthy air quality across parts of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

Look up the latest air quality info for your area at airnow.gov.

ABOUT MT. WILSON

Firefighters on duty to protect Mt. Wilson Observatory and nearby broadcast towers as the Bobcat Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 17, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

In recent days, the fire was burning dangerously close to the facility, which is arguably one of the world's most important spots for scientific discovery. Firefighters have used a variety of tactics to protect the observatory, including carving out lines by hand and with bulldozers, setting strategic backfires and using aircraft to make water drops.

The Mt. 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.

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

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

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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Independent Autopsy: Dijon Kizzee Shot 15 Times, 7 From Behind

Updated
Published
Diagrams from the independent autopsy of Dijon Kizzee. (Frank Stoltze/LAist)

An independent autopsy of Dijon Kizzee found he sustained 15 bullet wounds, seven of them from behind, lawyers for Kizzee’s family said today.

The attorneys also challenged the Sheriff's Department's latest version of the incident, which says Kizzee had picked up a gun he had dropped before the two deputies fatally shot the 29-year-old on Aug. 31.

"I've spoken to several witnesses who have confirmed he did not have anything in his hands before he was shot," attorney Carl Douglas told a news conference.

The L.A. County coroner has not completed the official autopsy, and Sheriff Alex Villanueva has placed a "security hold" on its release.

The independent autopsy was performed by Los Angeles Dr. John Hiserodt. He has not yet determined which of the wounds were fatal, said Ben Crump, one of the family’s attorneys. But Douglas argued that Kizzee might have survived if deputies hadn’t waited as long as 10 minutes before approaching him and administering aid.

The Sheriff's Department says the two deputies fired 19 rounds at Kizzee.

Douglas said audio from a nearby Ring device recorded the deputies firing an initial burst of three or four shots, then pausing, and then firing the remaining shots.

A drawing of the preliminary results of the autopsy shows two grazing wounds, one in the back of Kizzee’s head and one in his left shoulder blade. Those types of wounds indicate that an individual was shot while lying on the ground.

Douglas called on District Attorney Jackie Lacey to bring criminal charges against the deputies.

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UC Schools Admit Dozens Of Students Based On Donor And Family Ties, Audit Finds

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Published
(Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist/KPCC)

UCLA and three other UC schools unfairly admitted at least 64 students in recent years as favors to donors, and family and friends of university staff, according to a new state audit. Most of the students were white and wealthy, the audit found.

Of these students, 22 were admitted as athletes, despite their lack of qualifications to compete.

"By admitting 64 noncompetitive applicants, the university undermined the fairness and integrity of its admissions process and deprived more qualified students of the opportunity for admission," State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter attached to the audit.

READ THE FULL AUDIT:

The auditor also found that UCLA and UC Berkeley admitted thousands of applicants who appeared less qualified than others who didn't get in. The auditor's report says these schools lack specific admissions criteria, and that whether or not a student gets accepted is often left up to the person reviewing the application and their personal biases.

"We found that staff were sometimes overly strict or overly lenient in their review of applications, thereby making the applicants’ chances of admission unduly dependent on the individual staff who rated them rather than on the students’ qualifications," Howle wrote.

The audit targeted UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara.

AUDITOR'S RECOMMENDATIONS

To remedy the problem, the report says campuses should:

  • Double-check admissions of athletes to make sure their athletic talents warrant admission and that no improper donations may have influenced their admission.
  • Make sure no one person has the authority to make a final decision on admissions.
  • Prohibit communication about applicants between a campus's fundraising wing and admissions officers.
  • Establish and implement a methodology for selecting applicants, including a rationale for admitting applicants with less competitive ratings than others.
  • Block campuses from seeing information about candidates that could bias their evaluations.
  • Begin conducting regular audits of admissions processes at all UC undergraduate campuses, to be carried out by the UC Office of the President.

In response to the audit, UC President Michael V. Drake said in a statement:

"I take the findings and recommendations very seriously and will do all I can to prevent inappropriate admissions at UC. I have zero tolerance in matters of compromised integrity.

"The University will swiftly address the concerns the State Auditor raised. Furthermore, individuals involved in improper activities will be disciplined appropriately."

He said the university system would map out corrective actions in the coming weeks.

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Disney Calls On Newsom To Let Disneyland Reopen, Explains COVID-19 Safety Plans

Updated
Published
Disneyland is not currently the Happiest Place on Earth. Or the openest place on Earth. But could it reopen soon? (Photo courtesy Disneyland Resort)

In a video update today from Disney on its approach to reopening its theme parks safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide guidelines to allow for the reopening of the still-shuttered Disneyland and California Adventure parks in Anaheim.

CALLS TO REOPEN DISNEYLAND

Disney Parks, Experiences And Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro said nearly 80,000 Orange County jobs rely on the operation of the parks in Anaheim, making the economic impact steep.

"I encourage you to treat theme parks like you would other sectors, and help us reopen," D'Amaro said. "The longer we wait, the more devastating the impact will be to Orange County and the Anaheim communities, and to the tens of thousands of people who rely on us to reopen."

D'Amaro called for guidelines that are "fair and equitable" so that they can plan for reopening.

Newsom promised last week that theme park reopening details will be coming soon. Other Disney parks around the world have already opened their doors.

Orange County mayors have also been calling on Newsom to allow Disneyland to reopen, with the local economy taking a major hit. Anaheim officials have reported their budget shortfall is now $100 million.

"We are ready to open, and we are hoping we will have guidance from the state soon," California Adventure & Downtown Disney VP Patrick Finnegan said.

D'Amaro closed his remarks by saying, "As you can see from this discussion today, we're ready. And more importantly, it's time."

CALIFORNIA SAFETY MEASURES

According to officials, the company is using what it's learned about dealing with COVID-19 at its other parks to continue to improve safety measures, helping it to be more prepared for reopening in California. Those measures include:

  • Temperature checks
  • Mandatory face masks
  • Increased sanitation
  • Increased use of virtual queue system
  • Increased use of mobile dining options
  • Expanding contactless payments

Disney's California parks have already installed signage for physical distancing, Plexiglass shields for protection where physical distancing isn't possible, and handwashing/hand-sanitizing stations.

They're also finalizing details of a plan allowing their staff to access COVID-19 testing in their local communities. Finnegan noted that thousands of employees remain furloughed.

California Adventure had been set to open its new Marvel-themed Avengers Campus land this summer, but with the COVID-19 shutdown, that was delayed. Finnegan noted that it will be able to open soon after the park reopens. He also noted that Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge had been open for less than a year when the park shut down, and that the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction had only been open for a few months, so many have yet to experience it.

The Downtown Disney shopping district was reopened in July. They have been monitoring attendance to control capacity, Finnegan said, as well as using virtual wait lists. Finnegan noted that Orange County isn't in the most serious of the state's COVID-19 reopening tiers, and that talks between Disney and the governor's office are continuing.

WHAT THEY'VE DONE IN FLORIDA

The prevalence of COVID-19 in Central Florida has gone down since Disney World reopened, Animal Kingdom Vice President Djuan Rivers noted. In Florida, Disney is:

  • Limiting attendance
  • Additional sanitation stations
  • Employees enforcing social distancing
  • Increased frequency of cleaning

A Disney representative noted that the company doesn't publicly share attendance levels, but that they are closely monitoring those levels at parks that have reopened.

Masks are required through most of the Disney World parks when people aren't seated and eating/drinking, though there are also "relaxation" areas where people aren't required to wear masks. The capacity of these areas is limited.

Disney World has cancelled some of its regular entertainment, though they've also created new entertainment options meant to help avoid crowds from gathering.

Disney has designed custom masks for its employees, currently in their third generation of design as they've learned more about effective mask-making.

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Debating Prop 16: Should Voters Restore Affirmative Action To California’s Constitution?

Updated
Published
KPCC and LAist present a virtual event that explores the sides of Prop 16, which will be on the Nov. 3 ballot in California.

Among the slew of measures on the November ballot is Proposition 16, which would erase the ban on affirmative action at public institutions from California’s constitution. That ban was put in place when voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996.

Southern California Public Radio will host an online event on Wednesday evening to lay out the basics of Prop 16 and to hear from experts on both sides of the debate.

Prop 16 opponents warn the change would put a person’s race ahead of merit in situations such as college admissions. Prop 16 supporters say California’s ban on affirmative action is a kind of systemic racism that’s keeping Blacks and Latinos out of higher education.

The event will include an interview with Lourdes Morales, Principal Fiscal and Policy Analyst with the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, who wrote an analysis of Prop 16.

“It repeals those prohibitions that were established by 209,” she said, “and therefore gives the discretion to local governments and the state to institute policies that do consider those policies.”

A Prop 16 victory would not, for example, mandate affirmative action in college admissions. Those decisions would be left to the UC Regents or California State University trustees, who would have to develop policies and action plans to bring back affirmative action.

Private colleges and universities are not affected by the ban on affirmative action and many use race and ethnicity for admissions.

Wednesday’s event begins at 6:30 p.m. RSVP here.

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K-12 Schools In Orange County Are Now Allowed To Welcome Back Students

Updated
Published
A parent takes photos of their child in front of the school's sign on the first day of hybrid classes at Lee Elementary School in Los Alamitos. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Starting today, K-12 schools in Orange County have the green light to welcome students and staff back for in-person instruction.

That’s because the county’s coronavirus case and test positivity rates have put it in the second most restrictive “tier” of the state’s coronavirus framework for two weeks.

Over the summer, when Orange County was still in the first tier on the state’s coronavirus monitoring system -- indicating “widespread” risk of community disease transmission -- schools needed waivers to reopen campuses. Cypress School District and Capistrano Unified had their waivers denied recently due to low support from their teachers and staff.

But that won’t have any bearing on their ability to reopen now that the county’s in the red -- or “substantial” risk of community disease transmission -- tier, according to Orange County Health Care Agency director and county health officer Clayton Chau.

“All schools, K through 12, by a state regulation are allowed to reopen for in-person education,” Chau explained.

No waiver or special permission from county health officials are required.

“The decision” – of when and how to reopen – ”would rest on the school district and the school board and parents and teachers,” Chau added.

Districts like Fountain Valley, Cypress, Irvine, and Tustin Unified have said they’ll reopen campuses and welcome back students this week.

Even with the new permission to reopen, the schools still need to follow state guidelines, like physical distancing and mandatory masks for students in third grade and older.

But Chau said he doesn’t have the resources or staff to check on every school to make sure they’re complying.

“Remember, we have never had that kind of relationship with schools before,” he said. “The county is not an auditing body for school.”

Instead, Chau said the Health Care Agency is depending on parents and the public to let them know if a school’s safety promises differ from its practices.

MORE OF OUR COVERAGE OF THE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS:

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Census Homeless Count Begins In LA This Week

Updated
Published
The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to fill out census information online on March 19, 2020 in San Anselmo, California. The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it has s

People living outside and in homeless shelters in L.A. this week will be counted in the 2020 Census.

The work is organized by the federal government through the U.S. Census Bureau. It's separate from the annual point-in-time-count conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. But according to that local count, at least an estimated 66,000 unhoused people will need to be accounted for.

Over the past few weeks, census takers have already reached out to people living in RVs, boats and campgrounds.

This week marks the beginning of service-based enumeration, which tallies people staying in shelters. It also includes those staying in hotels through Project Roomkey, a program meant to protect homeless people from COVID-19.

Shelter service providers have several options to provide data to the federal governemnt. They can send infomation on residents directly to the Census Bureau, provide blank questionnaires to residents, or allow census takers to collect responses through in-person interviews.

On Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, census workers will attempt to collect responses from people living outside.

Census Bureau officials won't say which service providers or nonprofits they’re working with to coordinate this count.

The 2020 Census is set to end Sept. 30 for now, after the Trump administration moved the deadline up from Oct. 31. The city of Los Angeles and other plaintiffs have sued to extend the decennial count, arguing that the city's most vulnerable populations could go undercounted. A federal judge recently ordered that the census could not wind down before this week, and could order that the deadline be extended.

There's much at stake for Southern California in the census: The data collected helps determine billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like Medi-Cal, for public education, even disaster planning. It also helps determine political represention in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. An undercount could lead to cuts in critical resources in Los Angeles County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation. So far, fewer than two thirds of L.A. County households have self-responded to the census online, by phone or by mail.

Census forms can be filled out online on the 2020 Census website.

READ MORE:

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Morning Briefing: California’s Unemployment Disaster

Updated
Published
Many freelancers have been getting low unemployment benefits because their income is derived from many different sources. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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

Good morning, L.A.

If you’ve tried to navigate California’s unemployment system in recent months – and many Angelenos have – you’ve no doubt noticed that it’s in need of some … upgrades.

Well, a recent task force put in place by Gov. Gavin Newsom found the same thing, and, as a result, the state’s Employment Development Department will stop taking new claims for the next two weeks as it attempts to sort itself out.

Among other findings, the report revealed that the department has a backlog of nearly 1.6 million unresolved claims; callers trying to reach the department have, at best, a one-in-1,000 chance of talking to a human; and applicants for unemployment who don’t speak English “have a difficult, if not impossible, time navigating the unemployment application process."

Those who already have open claims will continue to receive benefits during the next two weeks.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, September 22

Caroline Champlin takes a deeper dive into what is at stake for L.A. in the 2020 Census -- and how a lawsuit that's playing out in federal court may or may not change things.

Mike Roe sits in on a 10 a.m. news conference where Disney officials will go over plans to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic -- including at the still-shuttered Disneyland and California Adventure parks.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

The Bobcat Fire: The ongoing blaze in the Angeles National Forest surpassed 100,000 acres over the weekend, making it one of the largest wildfires in L.A. County history. As owners of Southern California’s last pack station, Maggie Moran and her family were relieved to learn that firefighters defended her home and business – located in a popular recreation area in the Angeles National Forest – from the Bobcat Fire.

Coronavirus Updates: There has been a 23% decrease in hospitalizations and a 25% decrease in COVID-19-positive ICU admissions in California over the past two weeks.

Money Matters: California’s unemployment system will stop accepting new claims for the next two weeks, as it attempts immediate reform following the publication of a damning report.

Higher Education: The Cal State University system will on Wednesday announce a new chancellor to replace retiring Timothy White.


Photo Of The Day

A Joshua Tree burns during the Bobcat Fire in Juniper Hills.

(Kyle Grillot/AFP via Getty Images)

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