Tag Archives: California

West Coast Wildfire Smoke Makes It to Michigan: NOAA

JACK PHILLIPS 
September 13, 2020

Wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington state have created hazardous air conditions across the West Coast of the United States as smoke travels thousands of miles.

A satellite image that was published over the weekend shows smoke from the West Coast stretching as far as Michigan, located thousands of miles away.

“Here is a visible satellite image valid at 2pm PDT showing the vast extent of the wildfire smoke,” the Weather Prediction Center wrote on Twitter Saturday. “The area in the orange contour is smoke in the mid-upper levels of the atmosphere that has reached as far east as Michigan! The red contour is the dense smoke near the West Coast.”

International air quality monitoring website IQAir.com reported that air quality in Portland, Oregon, was the worst in the world on Sunday. It said that Vancouver in Canada, Seattle, and San Francisco are in the top 10—beating out massive cities like New Delhi, India; Jakarta, Indonesia; Beijing, China; and Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Oregon cities like Medford, Corvallis, Albany, Eugene, Salem, and Bend all had worse air quality than Portland, according to OregonLive.

The National Weather Service has implemented air quality alerts for much of the West Coast, including parts of California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state.

“Air pollutants can cause breathing difficulties for children, the elderly, as well as persons with respiratory problems. Those individuals who are sensitive to increased particulate matter or smoke are encouraged to avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor activity during this alert. It is also recommended that all other individuals limit prolonged or strenuous activity outdoors,” said the weather agency.

Late Saturday, the Jackson County Sheriff’s office said that four people had died in the wildfire that burned in the Ashland area. Authorities earlier this week said as many as 50 people could be missing from the blaze. But they said the number of people unaccounted for is now down to one.

At least 10 people have been killed in the past week throughout Oregon. Officials have said more people are missing from other blazes, and the number of fatalities is likely to rise. Twenty-two people have died in California, and one person has been killed in Washington state.

Among the people killed was Millicent Catarancuic, who was found near her car at her five-acre home in Berry Creek, California. At one point she was ready to evacuate with her dogs and cats in the car. But she changed her mind as the winds seemed to calm and the flames stayed away. Then the fire changed direction, rushing onto the property too quickly for her to leave. She died, along with her animals.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Four People Arrested for Arson Across West Coast Amid Wildfires

JACK PHILLIPS 
September 13, 2020

Two people in Washington state, one in Oregon, and one in California have been arrested on arson charges as firefighters battle numerous wildfires throughout the West Coast.

Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, is accused of starting the Almeda Fire, said the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, reported OregonLive. Bakkela was arrested on two counts of arson, 15 counts of criminal mischief, and 14 counts of reckless endangerment, officials said.

A witness in Phoenix, Oregon, said they saw a person who was later identified as Bakkela lighting a fire behind their house on Quail Lane. Residents were forced to flee their homes after seeing him allegedly set the fire.

Epoch Times Photo
Michael Jarrod Bakkela (Jackson County Sheriff’s Office)

According to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in a statement, police arrived to find that “Bakkela was standing close to a very large fire threatening several homes.”

They also found that Bakkela was lodged on a probation violation detainer for possession of methamphetamine of more two ounces.

Local reports said that the Almeda Fire has destroyed hundreds of homes and left at least two people dead.

Authorities arrested two people in connection to fires in Washington state, identifying one as Jeffrey Alan Acord, who is accused of starting a fire along Highway 167. Officials said that he live-streamed himself setting the blaze and apparently reported himself to police.

Witnesses told KIRO7 that Acord allegedly was seen walking on the highway with a lighter and cardboard. The outlet reported that he is a regular at Black Lives Matter and anti-police rallies in Seattle.

Jacob Altona, 28, was arrested in connection to arson in Washington state near State Route 512 and State Route 7, officials said.

In California, Anita Esquivel, 37, was arrested for deliberately setting fires in California, said the California Highway Patro, according to KION-TV.

The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office told KION that there is no evidence that Esquivel has a connection to Black Lives Matter or far-left group Antifa.

Officials said Esquivel allegedly set fires on Highway 101 near Boronda Road in Salinas. She was taken to Monterey County Jail on arson charges.

On Saturday, the National Interagency Fire Center noted that about 97 fires have burned 4.7 million acres across the West Coast.

“More than 29,000 firefighters and support personnel are assigned to wildfires. Evacuation orders are in place for 40 large fires in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah,” the agency said.

Rumors About Antifa Setting Wildfires Are False: Law Enforcement

ZACHARY STIEBER 
September 11, 2020

Rumors that members of the far-left Antifa network are behind the spate of wildfires in Oregon are not substantiated, law enforcement officials warned this week.

While a number of people have been arrested for arson in recent days, none appear to have explicit ties to the network.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office officials wrote on Facebook that 911 dispatchers were “being overrun with requests for information and inquiries on an UNTRUE rumor that 6 Antifa members have been arrested for setting fires” in the county.

The rumor isn’t true, officials said, urging people to stop spreading it.

The Molalla Police Department, while asking people to report any suspicious activity because of rumors about people looting while fires raged, later edited its post, telling people: “This is about possible looters, not antifa or setting of fires. There has been NO antifa in town.”

And the Medford Police Department posted a screenshot of a story that claimed police arrested a man for arson.

Epoch Times Photo
A street is shrouded by smoke from wildfires in West Linn, Ore., Sept. 10, 2020. (Christian Gallagher via AP)

“This is a made up graphic and story. We did not arrest this person for arson, nor anyone affiliated with Antifa or ‘Proud Boys’ as we’ve heard throughout the day. Also, no confirmed gatherings of Antifa which has also been reported,” the department stated on social media.

Antifa members have repeatedly set fires in Portland this summer.

Some individuals have been arrested this month for arson or with incendiary devices in Oregon, California, Washington state.

Elias Newton Pendergrass, 44, was arrested last week for allegedly setting a fire that burned hundreds of acres near Eugene, Oregon, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said.

Detectives took a 27-year-old man into custody in Madera County, California on Thursday because he possessed illegal firearms, drugs, and bomb-making materials.

Christine Comello, 36, was arrested in Spokane, Washington on Monday on suspicion of setting fires.

And two men were apprehended in Puyallup and Parkland, Washington trying to ignite flames, state troopers said. Jeffrey Acord, one of the men, said he called police after a fire started near him during a live stream on Facebook.

Epoch Times Photo
A farm is leveled by the South Obenchain Fire along Butte Falls Highway in Eagle Point, Ore., on Sept. 10, 2020. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

“I’m out here on 167 right now it looks like a fire literally just started,” Acord said in the video.

“Ultimately it was determined is that they had probable cause to believe that gentleman had started that fire,” Puyallup Police Capt. Jason Visnaw told King 5.

Acord was arrested during unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 for possession of a concealed weapon and other charges. According to his Facebook page, he is a Black Lives Matter supporter.

Humans are believed to be behind several fires that burned through over 2,000 acres in Lincoln County as well as flames that destroyed some 600 houses in Almeda County.

“We have good reason to believe that there was a human element to it,” Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara told Reuters. “We’re going to pursue it as a criminal investigation until we have reason to believe that it was otherwise.”

O’Meara told The Oregonian that rumors regarding Antifa were “100 percent false.”

“We have some leads, and none of it points in that direction,” he added.Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber

California Fires Burn an Apocalyptic Record of 2 Million Acres and It’s Not Finished Yet

Strange Sounds
September 8th, 2020

Wildfires have burned a record 2 million acres in California this year, and the danger for more destruction is so high the U.S. Forest Service on Monday said it was closing all eight national forests in the southern half of the state.

Two of the three largest fires in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously. 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.

Lynne Tolmachoff, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said it’s “unnerving” to have reached a record for acreage burned when September and October usually are the worst for fires because vegetation has dried out and high winds are more common. The previous high was 1.96 million acres burned in 2018. Cal Fire began tracking the numbers in 1987.

A three-day heat wave brought triple-digit temperatures to much of the state during Labor Day weekend.

But right behind it was a weather system with dry winds that could fan fires.

One major blaze was ignited during a gender reveal party Saturday, and iconic landmarks are looking apocalyptic as fires approach.

Yes, California is burning like hell right now. And the fires are more visually menacing than usual, thanks to the rare pyrocumulus clouds the flames are creating.

Ancient 2,000-year-old Redwoods Feared Destroyed in California Wildfires have Amazingly Survived

ELIAS MARAT
August 25th, 2020

When terrifying wildfires ripped through Big Basin Redwoods State Park, one of California’s oldest and most cherished nature reserves, it wasn’t the campgrounds, nature center and other structures that people were mourning.

Instead, wildlife lovers and conservationists were heartbroken and devastated that old-growth redwoods, some as old as 2,000 years old, had been destroyed.

However, it turns out that even the thousands of lightning strikes and staggeringly massive forest fires that laid waste to the Santa Cruz Mountains were unable to destroy some of the oldest and tallest living things on Earth.

“We are devastated to report that Big Basin, as we have known it, loved it, and cherished it for generations, is gone,” the redwood conservationists at Sempervirens Fund said in a painful statement on Thursday. “Early reports are that the wildfire has consumed much of the park’s historic facilities. We do not yet know the fate of the park’s grandest old trees.”

However, an Associated Press reporter was happy to discover that most of the ancient redwoods feared to have been annihilated by the blaze have been scorched but are still standing tall – including the towering redwood named “Mother of the Forest” which once stood at 329 feet high prior to a recent storm and has a mighty circumference of 70 feet on the ground.

“That is such good news, I can’t tell you how much that gives me peace of mind,” Sempervirens conservation director Laura McLendon told AP.

Forest fires are a natural and regularly-occuring feature of redwood forests, and the bark of redwood trees is extremely fire-resistant – but the tragic announcements that the park had been wiped off the face of the Earth by the fires turned out to be misleading.

California’s venerable Big Basin state park, “home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco,” was founded in 1902 and receives a quarter of a million visitors each year. And while the 18,000-acre park is surely reeling after sustaining massive damage from the raging inferno that tore through it, the park’s infrastructure can certainly be rebuilt.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1296663082878423040&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fthemindunleashed.com%2F2020%2F08%2Fancient-2000-year-old-redwoods-amazingly-survived.html&siteScreenName=UnleashMind&theme=light&widgetsVersion=223fc1c4%3A1596143124634&width=500px

“But the forest is not gone … it will regrow,” McLendon said.

Indeed, redwood trees are extremely durable – which is why many of them have histories that date back to before the founding of the Roman Empire. And Big Basin’s redwoods bear the scars of wildfires, windstorm, and lightning strikes of centuries past.

“Every old growth redwood I’ve ever seen, in Big Basin and other parks, has fire scars on them,” McLendon said. “They’ve been through multiple fires, possibly worse than this.”

It’s part of the majestic redwood forest’s natural process: when trees are seemingly destroyed, new trunks simply sprout up in place of the old growth. Meanwhile, fallen trees become nurse trees upon which new redwoods grow, while banana slugs and insects crucial to the ancient forest’s ecological balance are sustained under the logs.

The reason those trees are so old is because they are really resilient,” said State Parks District Superintendent Chris Spohrer.

Following the fire that ripped through the park, Steller’s jays and woodpeckers returned to the park to scour the forest for insects.

The park had been closed during the COVID-19 lockdown and had only recently reopened following the state’s relaxation of the quarantine. However, the park is now facing indefinite closure, with fallen trees blocking roads, and buildings including the nature museum, ranger’s office, campground bathrooms, and historic park headquarters being utterly wiped out. Several large trees are still burning.

“The historic structures in California’s first state park are almost completely destroyed. It’s awful,” said Sam Hodder, the president of Save the Redwoods League, an environmentalist organization based in San Francisco that was founded in 1918.

“We are grateful that everybody got out and everybody is safe. That’s the most important thing,” Hodder said. “To have lost something that has been transforming people’s lives for more than 110 years, such an iconic place, such a terrific example of what parks mean to communities, it’s heartbreaking.”

But once the campgrounds are rebuilt, trails are cleared, and damaged oaks, firs and madrones are rehabilitated, the park will likely flourish in due time.

“The forest, in some ways, is resetting,” McLendon said.

Americans Continue to Flee States With Higher Taxes

EMEL AKAN 
August 23, 2020

WASHINGTON—States with the highest tax burdens, such as New York, Illinois, and California, continue to lose residents this year as tax rates have a significant effect on the growth and prosperity of the states, economists say.

“The evidence is clear that competitive tax rates, thoughtful regulations, and responsible spending lead to more opportunities for all Americans,” according to the “Rich States, Poor States” report by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative nonprofit organization.

The annual report ranks states based on their competitiveness and economic outlook by examining the policy choices made by the states and their impact.

In 2019, Utah ranked No. 1 for economic outlook, followed by Wyoming, Idaho, Indiana, and North Carolina; the state has earned the top ranking for 13 consecutive years.

According to Jonathan Williams, ALEC’s chief economist, Utah has implemented many reforms “that have been ahead of the curve.”

Utah’s lawmakers saw the unfunded liability problem in the state pension system and took bold actions to fix it after the financial crisis of 2008. The state also revised its property tax system.

“It’s not just a theory. This is really playing out in practice. And we see Americans continue to move into Utah. And Utah is just booming right now,” Williams told the show “NTD Business.”

“We continue to see this phenomenon where Americans vote with their feet. And they’re voting very strongly away from states with high tax burdens and less economic opportunities,” he said.

The states that gained the most in population over the past decade were Texas (more than 1.2 million, 15th on the economic outlook list) and Florida (more than 1.1 million, 7th on the list).

According to Williams, these states provide a pro-business environment, better tax policy, and more economic competition.

The bottom five states on the economic outlook ranking were New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Illinois, and California.

“When you look at the bottom states again, you see those states that have the highest tax rates, and they’re not phasing out, either,” economist Arthur Laffer, who co-authored the report, said on Aug. 11 during a webinar hosted by ALEC.

Both California and New York, for example, have proposals for large tax increases, he noted.

New York is “a treasure for America,” but “even treasures can have their gooses cooked over taxes, and I think that’s what you’re really seeing here,” Laffer said.

New York maintains the second-highest top marginal personal income tax rate and the highest top marginal corporate income tax rate, according to the report. The state lost more than 1.3 million residents between 2009 and 2018 to more economically competitive states.

The report also shows that big reforms have significantly helped states such as Wyoming, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Delaware, and Montana. These states improved their national rankings in 2019 by keeping their spending in check, which allowed them to reduce tax burdens, Williams said.

“You’re seeing just a migration of people out of these high tax states,” Stephen Moore, economist and a co-author of the ALEC report, said during the webinar.

“And it’s really putting stress on the budgets of these states like New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. These states are being kind of bled to death, year after year,” he said.

According to Moore, despite the pandemic, several states, including Utah, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa, have already balanced their budgets this year without massive income taxes.

The report illustrates each states’ competitiveness and economic outlook using 15 equally weighted policy variables, including tax rates, regulations, spending, and right-to-work labor policy. It also examines trends from past decades as well as policy choices made in 2019.

Follow Emel on Twitter: @mlakan

Typical: California Court System Lifts Eviction Moratorium After Lawsuit

MATTHEW VADUM 
August 20, 2020

Under legal pressure, the rule-making arm of California’s court system, the largest in the United States, has rescinded its pandemic-related emergency order that blocked the state’s courts from hearing eviction proceedings.

Landlords in California and across the country have reportedly been hard hit by emergency eviction moratoriums and by the inability of some of their tenants to pay rent in the troubled economy.

The Judicial Council of California voted 19–1 to scuttle emergency rules governing evictions and judicial foreclosures imposed by the body on April 6.

California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, who was appointed to her post in 2010 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, acknowledged in a statement that the council had overreached.

“The judicial branch cannot usurp the responsibility of the other two branches on a long-term basis to deal with the myriad impacts of the pandemic,” she said. “The duty of the judicial branch is to resolve disputes under the law and not to legislate. I urge our sister branches to act expeditiously to resolve this looming crisis.”

The Judicial Council of California acted after it was sued June 15 by two small landlords in the Kern County branch of the Superior Court of California.

The landlords argued that by initiating a ban on evictions, the Judicial Council undermined the state’s separation of powers and seized policymaking power from the legislature and governor to block landlords’ access to courts.

“Constitutional limitations on government are never more important than during an emergency,” said landlord lawyer Damien M. Schiff, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm headquartered in Sacramento, California.

“In this case, we challenged an eviction moratorium enacted not by the politically responsible branches of California’s government, but rather by the judiciary. Because it attempted to codify policy rather than merely regulate the practice of state courts, the rule exceeded the Judicial Council’s authority under the California Constitution. We are pleased not only that the Judicial Council has voted to rescind the rule, but also that the Council recognized” that its usurpation of legislative and executive powers to deal with the effects of the pandemic was improper.

The council took its lead from Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, who “ostensibly using his emergency powers, issued an executive order in March that essentially invited the Judicial Council to come up with some eviction moratorium plan, and the council responded by promulgating about a dozen what it called emergency rules of court.”

Newsom has urged the Trump administration to do more to prevent a potential wave of evictions and foreclosures after a four-month congressional moratorium protecting renters and homeowners during the current pandemic lapsed on July 24. The administration has responded that the president has done everything he’s legally allowed to do to halt evictions.

But even if you think an eviction moratorium is “a good idea, it’s not something that the judiciary is capable of doing constitutionally,” Schiff said in an interview.

“And the first of the rules, Emergency Rule 1, essentially imposed a blanket ban on the court-processing of eviction lawsuits,” he said.

The legal complaint stated that the rule “violates the fundamental rights of property owners by indefinitely suspending their right to initiate unlawful detainer actions [i.e., evictions] … [and] creates the perverse incentive for all tenants, whether they face financial hardship or not, to refuse to pay their rent during the crisis. And it immunizes from eviction even tenants who create nuisances, damage property, conduct illegal activity, or violate lease terms.”

The rule “effectively closes the courthouse doors to Petitioners and obstructs their right to re-enter their own property. It does so because the Judicial Council determined as a matter of policy that tenants should be immunized from eviction in virtually all cases. The rule therefore constitutes a legislative decision forbidden to the Judicial Council under the principle of separation of powers embodied in Article III, Section 3, of the California Constitution.”

“Eviction moratoriums don’t make sense,” Schiff said.

“There’s the more fundamental problem that, the government, sure, has the power to take reasonable action to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens, but if it takes their rights or it takes their property it has to pay for it. And here you have essentially landlords’ property being commandeered into a larger governmental effort to slow the spread of the virus.”

Because the goal of the lawsuit has been accomplished, the legal action has been withdrawn, Schiff added.