TIME natural disaster

Hundreds Flee California Wildfires as Governor Declares State of Emergency

A firefighter was killed in the fires

(LOWER LAKE, Calif.)—Blazes raging in forests and woodlands across California have taken the life of a firefighter and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes as an army of firefighters continue to battle them from the air and the ground.

Twenty-three large fires, many sparked by lightning strikes, were burning across Northern California on Saturday, said state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant. Some 8,000 firefighters were attempting to subdue them, something made incredibly difficult by several years of drought that have dried out California.

“The conditions and fire behavior we’re seeing at 10 in the morning is typically what we’d see in late afternoon in late August and September,” said Nick Schuler, a division chief with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “But because of the dry conditions, because of the drought-stricken vegetation accompanied by the steep terrain and winds, we’re seeing fire activity that’s abnormal for this time of year.”

In the Modoc National Forest, about a hundred miles south of Oregon, David Ruhl, an engine captain from South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest, was killed fighting a fast-moving blaze. He had vanished Thursday while fighting the 800-acre fire and his body wasn’t recovered until Friday.

The biggest fire was in the Lower Lake area north of San Francisco where firefighters had to wade through thick smoke and flying embers to turn loose horses, goats and other livestock in rural neighborhoods as their owners fled to safety. The fast-moving fire had burned three homes by Friday and was threatening 450 other structures. Only 5 percent contained, it had spread across 28 square miles and was growing quickly.

The fires prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency for California on Friday. As part of the order, he activated the California National Guard to help with disaster recovery.

Berlant said firefighters were hoping cooler weather might help them this weekend, but there was also the threat that lingering thunderstorms could bring more lightning strikes like those that ignited several of the fires.

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BURNING HILLS

The fast-spreading wildfire near Lower Lake north of San Francisco has torched three homes and is threatening more than 450 structures.

At least 650 residents have been evacuated from their homes as the blaze raged in hills covered in dense brush and oak trees and dotted with ranch homes. It has charred 28 square miles near Lower Lake, south of Clear Lake, a popular summer recreation spot.

Only 5 percent contained, it was moving southwest toward Lower Lake and Clear Lake.

“We saw it behind our house. We saw the smoke pouring over. So we just started collecting stuff and we left, to find out later that everyone was evacuated out here,” said resident Julie Flannery.

When they returned Friday they found their two horses and one mule were gone. They hoped firefighters turned them loose so they could make their way to safety.

“The rest of this is just material stuff,” she said. “The animals and the family is the most important.”

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FIRE LINES HOLDING

Crews battling a fire east of Napa Valley held their ground Friday, more than a week after it started.

The blaze has charred more than 12 square miles in Solano County. The fire is about 45 miles east of Napa’s wine county, and vineyards are not threatened.

At least 136 structures are threatened, but evacuation orders have been lifted. It is mostly contained, and crews expect to have it fully corralled by Monday.

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FOOTHILLS FIRES

A woman was arrested in connection with a small fire near Groveland, a stop-off point for travelers headed to Yosemite National Park.

The 200-acre fire, about 20 miles from the park’s entrance, was 45 percent contained Friday. About two dozen homes are threatened and voluntary evacuations are in place.

Lisa Ann Vilmur was arrested Thursday night for recklessly causing a fire and jailed on $100,000 bail. It was not known Friday if she has an attorney.

In a separate foothills blaze northeast of Sacramento, evacuation orders have been lifted for residents of 50 homes. The fire, which ignited Saturday, burned through more than 3 1/2 square miles and is almost fully contained.

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BASS LAKE BLAZE

Residents of 200 homes in the central California community of Cascadel Woods were ordered to evacuate Thursday.

A wildfire burning near Bass Lake for several days spread to more than 6 square miles and is partially contained.

Authorities say a boy acknowledged starting the fire by playing with a lighter to burn pine needles in the dry Sierra Nevada. They say the boy faces criminal charges but is not in custody because he and his family are cooperating.

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MODOC NATIONAL FOREST FIRE

Engine Captain David Ruhl of South Dakota was killed battling the fire that broke out Thursday in the Modoc National Forest about 100 miles south of Oregon.

The firefighter had vanished Thursday and his body wasn’t found until Friday. U.S. Forest Service officials didn’t immediately reveal the cause of death.

Ruhl, who was assigned to a Black Hills National Forest firefighting team, had been helping California firefighters since June.

The fire broke out southeast of Lava Camp and rapidly grew to consume 800 acres. No containment figure was immediately given.

TIME BMW

Why BMW Is Paying Some Car Owners $1,000

BMW Launch Their First All- Electric Car
Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

It's trying to get people to change their behavior

Last year, Los Angeles carved out a plan to become a national electric vehicle leader by 2017. The city has since hit a roadblock. The environment would benefit radically if everyone had an electric car, but as the electric cars become more popular, utility companies have to figure out ways to support them.

BMW and PG&E, a California utility company, have joined forces in a trial that they’re calling the “BMW iCharge Forward” program, which they hope will solve the issue. They announced the 18-month trial in January and are finally starting it this month.

PG&E will alert BMW during peak hours when it wants to limit energy consumption. The car company will then alert drivers not to charge their cars for the next hour. The drivers can select their preferred driving hours, which BMW will keep in mind when choosing which customers they’ll request to refrain from charging. The drivers can also opt out if they can’t commit to a delay.

100 BMW i3 drivers have agreed to participate. Each participant receives a $1,000 gift card at the beginning of the program, and at the end of the 18 months they’ll get a second one worth up to $540, depending on how many times they’ve complied with the delay.

TIME fire

Officials Are Looking for People Who Flew Drones Over California Wildfires

The drone operators could be prosecuted for murder if the drones caused delays that led to deaths of any firefighters or civilians

Officials want to know who flew drones near several wildfires in California’s San Bernardino mountains, causing firefighters to temporarily ground their flame-battling planes.

The reward for someone who identifies the drone operators? $75,000.

“In the most recent fire, the North Fire, we saw cars and trucks burning on the freeway, we saw homes burn, and we saw families running for their lives,” Jorge Ramos, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement.

“We want to know who was flying drones, and we want them punished,” he said. “Someone knows who they are, and there is $75,000 waiting…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME celebrities

Judge Says Katy Perry’s Convent Sale Appears to Be Invalid

Katy Perry at Starkey Hearing Foundation Awards Gala in St. Paul, Minn. on July 26, 2015.
Andy King—AP Images for Starkey Hearing Foundation Katy Perry at Starkey Hearing Foundation Awards Gala in St. Paul, Minn. on July 26, 2015.

Perry has agreed to purchase the convent and an adjoining house of prayer

(LOS ANGELES) — A judge says he believes the sale of a hilltop convent to a businesswoman who wants to turn it into a hotel is invalid.

Los Angeles’ archbishop wants to sell the property to pop singer Katy Perry. But the sale is opposed by the order of nuns who own the convent.

Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant made the comments about the disputed sale but he did not immediately order businesswoman Dana Hollister to vacate the convent.

Chalfant will consider whether to allow Perry or Hollister to pay rent on the property while it is tied up by lawsuits.

Perry has agreed to pay $14.5 million for the convent and an adjoining house of prayer used by priests.

The “Roar” singer did not attend the hearing.

Another hearing was set for Sept. 15.

TIME California

California Teenager Accused of Killing 8-Year-Old Girl

Madyson Maddy Middleton
AP This undated photo provided by the Santa Cruz Police Department shows missing Madyson "Maddy" Middleton, from Santa Cruz, Calif.

8-year-old Madyson Middleton was reported missing Sunday evening before her body was found the following night

(SANTA CRUZ, Calif.) — A teenage boy lured an 8-year-old girl into his apartment and killed her before hiding her body in a recycling bin at the housing complex where they lived, authorities said Tuesday.

Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel told reporters that Madyson Middleton was probably dead even before she was reported missing Sunday evening.

Federal and local law enforcement searched the area surrounding the complex Sunday night and throughout Monday before finding the girl’s body that night.

A 15-year-old boy, who police say knew the girl as a neighborhood acquaintance, was arrested on suspicion of murder, Vogel said.

The boy, whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile, was nearby when the body was discovered, and officers found evidence in the apartment that links him to the slaying, the police chief said.

Madyson willingly went to the apartment. A motive has not yet been released, Vogel said.

Prosecutors are “absolutely considering” bringing charges against the boy as an adult, Santa Cruz District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell said.

The girl’s disappearance has shaken the unique artists’ community called Tannery Arts Center on the outskirts of this small beach town.

Volunteers had the searched surrounding areas to look for Madyson, who was last seen Sunday afternoon. She had been seen riding her new Razor scooter in the courtyard, but around 5 p.m., her mother realized she was gone.

Police twice conducted a door-to-door search of the entire complex, as well as a homeless shelter across the street. Vogel said he did not know if the boy’s apartment was immediately searched, but they believe the girl was killed before they got a call.

Beyond the 8-acre property, searchers from throughout the state used boats, helicopters, bikes and cameras in their efforts.

Authorities used dogs to search nearby woods and parks and the San Lorenzo River levee. Helicopters searched the forest and the coastline, and the Coast Guard surveyed the ocean 2 miles from where she was last seen.

Hundreds of volunteers showed up to look for Madyson in neighborhoods and streets.

The Tannery Arts Center where the girl lived is a public-private nonprofit project that includes 100 affordable loft apartments for artists and their families, a cafe and dance and art studios.

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Associated Press Writer Kristin J. Bender contributed to this report.

TIME California

California to Review Videos Targeting Planned Parenthood

The videos were secretly filmed

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Friday that she plans to review two undercover videos released by anti-abortion activists aimed at discrediting Planned Parenthood’s procedures for providing fetal tissue to researchers, to see if any laws were broken.

Harris announced the move in a letter to four Democratic members of Congress who had requested an investigation, saying she’ll use her office’s authority to regulate charity organizations to see if the organization that made the videos violated registration or reporting requirements, or broke any other rules. Harris, a Democrat, plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

“We will carefully review the allegations raised in your letter to determine whether there were any violations of California law,” Harris said in the letter to four members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

She said her office will look into “allegations that individuals impersonated corporate officials from a fake biologics company, resulting in the release of secretly filmed videos of Planned Parenthood physicians without their consent.”

The videos show Dr. Mary Gatter, a Planned Parenthood medical director in Southern California, meeting with people posing as potential buyers of intact fetal specimens. The conversation focuses largely on how much money the buyers should pay.

David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress, the group that released the videos, said it follows all applicable laws when making the videos that he called investigative journalism.

He said in a statement that Planned Parenthood is “trying to use the power of their political cronies to shut down free speech” and to “silence the freedom of the press.”

The videos have brought investigations of Planned Parenthood’s policies on aborted fetuses by three Republican-led congressional committees and three states.

Federal law prohibits the commercial sale of fetal tissue, but it allows the not-for-profit donation of tissue if the women who underwent abortions give their consent. Planned Parenthood says the payments discussed in the videos pertain to reimbursement for the costs of procuring the tissue — which is legal.

Gatter says in the second video, which was released on Tuesday a week after the first, that “We’re not in it for the money,” while also discussing whether a payment of $100 per fetal specimen would be adequate.

Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero said in a statement after the release of the second video that the organization behind the videos “is a group of extremists who have intimidated women and doctors for years in their agenda to ban abortion completely.”

TIME Crossfit

560 Insanely Fit People Are Currently Competing at the 2015 CrossFit Games

543194585
Peathegee Inc — Getty Images/Blend Images

The winners will split a $2 million cash prize

The 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games are taking place in Carson, California this week, where 560 of the world’s best CrossFit athletes will attempt to lift, run and sweat their way to first place in their respective divisions.

The Games began on July 21 and will continue until July 26 at the StubHub Center. They will also stream online on CrossFit’s website as well as on ESPN.

The event has tripled in size in the past year, the Daily Breeze, a local newspaper, reports. Kyle Waters, the assistant general manager at the StubHub Center, told the paper that around 50,000 spectators are expected to arrive in the town of less than 100,000.

CrossFit combines gymnastics, lifting and aerobics into a competitive sport. Started by Greg Glassman 15 years ago, the fitness trend has developed a cult-like following globally. According to Quartz, the company behind CrossFit earned $40 million in 2012 alone and has tripled its number of gyms worldwide in the past three years.

Contestants do not know what activity they will be taking part in until the day of competition. But so far, they have participated in gruelling tasks like 50-meter sandbag runs, chest-to-bar pullups and deadlifts. The winners of the week’s activities will split a $2 million cash prize amongst themselves, the Breeze reports.

[Daily Breeze]

TIME India

This 10-Year-Old Indian Boy Just Won Two World Junior Golf Titles in Two Weeks

The son of a milkman, he started the game in the empty fields of his village

He’s barely a tween, but India’s Shubham Jaglan has already begun scripting a remarkable success story on the world stage with two titles in two weeks on the World Junior Golf circuit.

The 10-year-old, who hails from the northern Indian state of Haryana, won the International Junior Golf Association’s World Stars of Junior Golf event on Thursday, Indian news channel NDTV reported.

Shubham secured a five-stroke win over the U.S.’s Justin Dang and Sihan Sandhu and Thailand’s Pongsapak Laopakdee to win the Boys 9-10 Years title in Las Vegas, building on his victory at the World Junior Golf Championships in California last Sunday.

The Indian youngster’s rural background — his father works as a milkman and he started his career at age 5 by practicing in agricultural fields — makes his achievements all the more extraordinary.

“I’m just working hard and being honest, there are no shortcuts for me,” Shubham said, describing the victory as a “dream come true.”

Indian netizens were quick to congratulate the young golf prodigy.

[NDTV]

TIME California

Huge Forest Fire Ravages 6,000 Acres in Northern California

wragg fire california
Joel Rosenbaum—AP CalFire Air tanker drops fire retardant on a ridge above Pleasants Valley Rd. near Winters, Calif., as crews continue to battle the Wragg Fire on July 23, 2015.

"It's unbelievable fire could spread so fast"

The Wragg fire on the outskirts of California’s Napa Valley chewed through thousands of acres of steep, treacherous terrain Thursday, forcing mandatory evacuations of two small communities and threatening more than 200 structures, fire officials said.

The fire in the area of Wragg Canyon near Lake Berryessa in Napa and Solano counties spread from 1,000 acres Wednesday night to 6,700 by early Thursday afternoon, the state, local and federal interagency team battling the blaze said. More than 1,300 firefighters were in the scene, less than 24 hours after the fire started.

Lake Berryessa is about 30 miles east of Napa Valley. Winds were erratic, but they…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME

University of California to Raise Hourly Minimum Wage to $15

Janet Napolitano UC Minimum Wage
Pool—Getty Images University of California President Janet Napolitano has lunch with students at UCLA on October 11, 2013 in Westwood, California.

The increase is set to affect more than 3,200 of the University's 195,000 employees.

The University of California will raise the minimum wage for its employees to $15, a $6 increase over California’s current minimum.

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced the wage hike in a statement released Wednesday, saying “Our community does not exist in a vacuum. How we support our workers and their families impacts Californians who might never set foot on one of our campuses.”

The increase is set to go into effect gradually over the next three years—increasing from the current statewide $9 minimum (which itself will increase to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016) to $13 on Oct. 1, 2015 for employees who work at least 20 hours per week; again to $14 on Oct. 1, 2016; and finally, to $15 on Oct. 1, 2017.

The move comes amid a nationwide movement to guarantee workers what is known as a “living wage,” echoing recent minimum wage mandates by the city councils of both Los Angeles and Seattle, as well as Los Angeles County.

The University of California currently employs close to 195,000 workers across its 10 campuses, making it California’s third-largest employer. Still, the decision is only expected to affect about 3,200 direct employees of the University who work more than 20 hours per week, along with another several thousand employed by contractors, to the disappointment of labor leader otherwise pleased with the gesture.

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