Nearly 100,000 acres charred by Dixie and Tamarack wildfires
Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, July 21. I’m Justin Ray.
Two wildfires in the northern part of the state have charred a combined total of nearly 100,000 acres. So far, the pair of blazes have little to no containment. The fires follow warnings from climate experts who have said that high temperatures and dry conditions have created the perfect conditions for a wildfire to thrive. Here’s the latest on the fires currently raging through the state.
The 6-day-old Dixie fire has presented challenges to crews as it continues to spread through Butte and Plumas counties. The fire has grown to 60,000 acres with only 15% containment, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Tuesday.
The fire has become so volatile that it spawned a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, which created its own lightning, said Scott Rowe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. You can view the cloud here.
Rowe added that clouds from the blaze “are dangerous on multiple fronts, mainly because there’s potential that you could see lightning develop underneath the fire, and that in itself could spark new fires.”
“That [cloud] caused some extreme fire activity, which basically made our firefighters back off from what they were doing until the weather calmed down,” said Rick Carhart, a spokesman for Cal Fire’s Butte County unit.
Firefighters have managed to steer flames away from the site of the 2018 Camp fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history. But it is inching toward Lake Almanor, where homes and cabins are located.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. says the Dixie fire may have been sparked by the company’s utility equipment, which was also the cause of the horrific Camp fire. A trust representing more than 80,000 wildfire victims sued nearly two dozen of the utility’s former executives and board members earlier this year, claiming their neglect led to several fires.
A blaze near the California-Nevada border in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest increased to nearly 40,000 acres Tuesday with 0% containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Tamarack fire was started by lightning, and has robbed officials of electricity and hampered their efforts to release information to locals, according to an Alpine County Sheriff’s Office Facebook posting. More than half of the county’s residents were without power Tuesday, officials said.
Smoke has presented a challenge to the more than 1,000 firefighters battling the flames. Tamarack fire incident spokesman Mike DeFries says it has made air operations and accurate mapping difficult. A large pyrocumulonimbus cloud was seen forming over the blaze as well.
Terrain has presented its own problems. “A lot of the terrain is not in a location where you can necessarily send in groups of firefighters to try and create traditional lines,” DeFries said. “You’ve basically got to fight it where you can.”
You can get a live look at the wildfires in the state with our interactive map.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California.
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
California launches the largest free school lunch program in the U.S. All 6.2 million California public school students will have the option to eat school meals for free when classrooms reopen for the fall term. The option was made possible by the state’s unexpected budget surplus. The program will be the largest free student lunch program in the country. “This is so historic. It’s beyond life-changing,” said Erin Primer, director of food services for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District on California’s Central Coast. Los Angeles Times
Jerry Lewis dies. The longest-serving Republican congressman in California history has died at his home in Redlands. He was 86. Lewis was a former House Appropriations Committee chairman who helped steer federal aid to the state after disasters but who was celebrated — and vilified — for earmarking millions of dollars to his Inland Empire district for pet projects. In Washington’s hyperpartisan climate, the affable Lewis was well liked by colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Los Angeles Times
CRIME AND COURTS
After a visitor’s death, Fresno water park operators to fight back against report. A Division of Occupational Safety and Health of California (Cal/OSHA) report on Island Waterpark in Fresno outlined several operational, mechanical or training deficiencies after the death of a patron. On June 20, a 46-year-old was found unconscious and brought to the surface by another visitor. “The report does not identify anything that the Water Park did or not do that contributed to this incident,” said Bob Martin, general manager of the water park, who pledged to appeal the findings. Fresno Bee
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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
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Man rides a bike 2,143 miles for birthday celebration. Brian Gonsalves, who lives in the San Diego area, biked 2,143 miles to North Dakota to celebrate his mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Gonsalves said while he was planning the trip with his wife, Dorreen Drader-Gonsalves, she suggested the impractical transit method: “She knows how much I love to ride my bike,” he said. He started at 4:30 a.m. on June 18, and got there on July 11. Minot Daily News
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Patty Hernandez, a 23-year-old pregnant packer at an Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy, Calif., says the company’s human resources department denied her doctor’s note requesting accommodations. The note, which was obtained by Vice’s Motherboard, said no lifting, pushing, pulling or carrying more than 20 pounds. She says her manager asked why she was taking longer bathroom breaks and moving slower. She ended up having a miscarriage. “An Amazon spokesperson was unable to provide a comment to Motherboard after several email exchanges and phone calls, and a week’s investigation,” according to Motherboard. Vice
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Los Angeles: Super hot, 89. San Diego: Overcast, but still 79. I once had great gelato in Little Italy. Do that maybe? San Francisco: Great weather for a nice cold Modelo, 67. San Jose: Great book weather, 76. Fresno: Oh gosh, that’s brutal, 94.
Today’s California memory is from Janet Griffin:
My best friend, Gayle, and I each had a grade horse. We practically camped on those two horses, riding them everywhere along the rural Stanton, Orange County roads and fields. A favorite summer destination was along the orange groves of Highway 39 to Knott’s Berry Farm. There were tie stalls in the back of Ghost Town, and we could leave our horse with homemade burlap feed bags over their noses and wander all over Knott’s. There were no fences or admission fees in 1949. Then home before dark or all hell broke loose with our parents.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
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