TIME California

California Measure Fails to Create Green Jobs

Tom Steyer Proposition 39 california
Rich Pedroncelli—AP Billionaire Tom Steyer, the chief financier behind the Proposition 39 campaign, discusses a proposed bill to fund energy efficiency projects at schools in California's poorest communities, during a news conference at Mark Twin Elementary School in Sacramento, Calif. on Dec. 4, 2012.

The measure promised to generate more than 11,000 jobs each year.

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Three years after California voters passed a ballot measure to raise taxes on corporations and generate clean-energy jobs by funding energy-efficiency projects in schools, barely one-tenth of the promised jobs have been created, and the state has no comprehensive list to show how much work has been done or how much energy has been saved.

Money is trickling in at a slower-than-anticipated rate, and more than half of the $297 million given to schools so far has gone to consultants and energy auditors. The board created to oversee the project and submit annual progress reports to the Legislature has never met, according to a review by The Associated Press.

Voters in 2012 approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act by a large margin, closing a tax loophole for multistate corporations. The Legislature decided to send half the money to fund clean energy projects in schools, promising to generate more than 11,000 jobs each year.

Instead, only 1,700 jobs have been created in three years, raising concerns about whether the money is accomplishing what voters were promised.

“Accountability boards that are rubber stamps are fairly common, but accountability boards that don’t meet at all are a big problem,” said Douglas Johnson, a state government expert at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers called for more oversight Monday and requested a legislative hearing to examine the program.

“We should hold some oversight hearings to see how the money is being spent, where it is being spent and seeing if Prop. 39 is fulfilling the promise that it said it would,” said Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno.

The State Energy Commission, which oversees Proposition 39 spending, could not provide any data about completed projects or calculate energy savings because schools are not required to report the results for up to 15 months after completion, spokeswoman Amber Beck said.

Still, Beck said she believes the program is on track. The commission estimates that based on proposals approved so far, Proposition 39 should generate an estimated $25 million a year in energy savings for schools.

Not enough data has been collected for the nine-member oversight board of professors, engineers and climate experts to meet, she said.

The AP’s review of state and local records found that not one project for which the state allocated $12.6 million has been completed in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has nearly 1,000 schools. Two schools were scheduled this summer to receive lighting retrofits and heating and cooling upgrades, but no construction work has been done on either site, LAUSD spokeswoman Barbara Jones said.

The office of Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, previously estimated LAUSD would save up to $27 million a year on energy costs; projects proposed by the district so far would save only $1.4 million.

De Leon, the primary booster of Proposition 39 in the state Legislature, said in a statement Monday that the measure is already successful and it is too soon to assess its implementation.

“Most school districts are either in the planning phase or are preparing to launch large-scale, intensive retrofit projects that will maximize benefits to students, school sites and the California economy,” de Leon said in a joint statement with the initiative’s chief supporter, billionaire investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer. He funded the initiative campaign with $30 million of his money.

School district officials around the state say they intend to meet a 2018 deadline to request funds and a 2020 deadline to complete projects. They say the money will go to major, long-needed projects and are unconcerned schools have applied for only half of the $973 million available so far, or that $153 million of the $297 million given to schools has gone for energy planning by consultants and auditors.

“If there’s money out there, we’re going for it,” said Tom Wright, an energy manager for the San Diego Unified School District, which has received $9.5 million of its available $9.7 million.

Leftover money would return to the general fund for unrestricted projects of lawmakers’ choosing.

The proposition is also bringing in millions less each year than initially projected. Proponents told voters in 2012 that it would send up to $550 million annually to the Clean Jobs Energy Fund. But it brought in just $381 million in 2013, $279 million in 2014 and $313 million in 2015.

There’s no exact way to track how corporations reacted to the tax code change, but it’s likely most companies adapted to minimize their tax burdens, nonpartisan legislative analyst Ken Kapphahn said. He also said the change applies to a very small number of corporations.

Steyer’s team sought to distance him from the measure’s implementation, saying the billionaire wanted to respect the legislative process.

It’s undeniable that Proposition 39 has created a disappointing number of jobs, said Kirk Clark, vice president of the California Business Roundtable, which opposed the measure but did not aggressively lobby against it.

“We’ve got a long track record in California of over-promising green jobs and under-delivering,” said Clark, who also expressed concern that most of the jobs created so far appear to be consulting positions.

Neither the Energy Commission nor Tim Rainey, director of the California Workforce Investment Board, could identify the types of jobs created by Proposition 39 projects. They said that information would be available when the oversight board meets for the first time, likely in October or November.

Clark also noted that nearly half the approved projects have been lighting retrofits, which don’t create as many jobs as work-intensive projects such as replacing heating and air conditioning systems.

Schools often prioritize lighting projects because they work well with the Energy Commission’s formula, which requires schools to save at least $1.05 on energy costs for every dollar spent. The Energy Commission said its jobs number is based on dollars spent and doesn’t take the type of project into account.

Johnson said the slow results show the oversight board should have gotten involved much earlier.

“They should have been overseeing all stages of this project, not just waiting until the money’s gone and seeing where it went,” Johnson said.


TIME California

4.0-Magnitude Earthquake Hits San Francisco

There are no reports of injuries

(SAN FRANCISCO) — A short sharp earthquake rattled the San Francisco Bay Area, but there are no reports of injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the 4.0 magnitude quake Monday morning was centered just north of Piedmont, near Berkeley, and felt in downtown San Francisco, along the Peninsula and in the East Bay.

The shallow quake at 6:49 a.m. was a sharp jolt, followed by a couple of gentle rolls. It was not immediately known if the quake caused damage.

Bay Area Rapid Transit is holding trains to check the tracks on the public transit system. Commuters should expect delays.


4.2 magnitude earthquake, close to San Francisco, USA
USGS/EPAA shake map released by the US Geological Survey on 17 Aug. 2015 shows the location of a 4.2 magnitude earthquake, close to San Francisco.
TIME California

Small Planes Collide in Midair, Killing 5 in San Diego

Authorities say multiple people died following the midair collision and crash of two small planes near an airport in southern San Diego County. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor says the collision occurred around 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, about 2 miles northeast of Brown Field Municipal Airport. (John Gastaldo/U-T San Diego via AP)
John Gastaldo—U-T San Diego/AP Authorities say multiple people died following the midair collision and crash of two small planes 2 miles northeast of Brown Field Municipal Airport in southern San Diego County, on Aug. 16, 2015.

All 5 victims were on the planes

(SAN DIEGO) — Two small planes collided midair while approaching an airport in southern San Diego County on Sunday, killing five people and sparking brush fires in a remote field where the wreckage landed, authorities said.

The collision occurred around 11 a.m. PDT about 2 miles northeast of Brown Field Municipal Airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Both planes — a twin-engine Sabreliner jet and a single-engine Cessna 172 — were approaching Brown Field, Gregor said.

The Sabreliner carrying four people was registered to military contractor BAE Systems, which said in a statement that its employees were aboard the aircraft.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Andrew Swick told KNSD-TV the pilot of the Cessna was on a cross-country trip.

Both planes caught fire when they hit the ground and broke apart, said Nick Schuler, a division chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“It appears it was a very violent crash, as you can tell by both aircraft being in multiple pieces,” Schuler said.

The wreckage which was strewn across a wide area. The Sabreliner crashed on a grassy slope and the Cessna fell within the bounds of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge.

Crews extinguished several brush fires where the planes came down. One firefighter was taken to the hospital after he suffered a heat-related injury, Schuler said.

Brown Field, a former Naval auxiliary air station, is in the Otay Mesa area about 15 miles southeast of downtown San Diego, near the border with Mexico.

The FAA and NTSB were investigating the cause of the collision.

TIME Environment

This Graphic Shows How Plastic Balls Are Saving L.A. From Drought

Why reservoirs across the city have thousands of 'shade balls' floating on the surface

The city of Los Angeles has dumped millions of small black balls into the city’s reservoirs in an effort to protect the city’s water supply.

The “shade balls” are intended to maintain good water quality and protect against evaporation. It’s one solution to the state of California’s record-breaking drought, and could save the city millions in both water and costs. “As the drought continues, it has never been more important to focus on innovative ways to maintain the highest quality drinking water for our 4 million residents, Los Angeles City Council Mitchell Englander said in a statement.

But how do they work? Take a look at the graphic below and find out:

TIME politics

Let California Pick the Next President

Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Forget the caucus in Iowa—let's host one on the Golden State's Central Coast

Correction appended, Aug. 14, 2015.

At the risk of sounding like Donald Trump, let me say it’s just stupid that California won’t play a significant role in picking the next president. It’s even dumber that the small state of Iowa, with its first-in-the-nation caucuses and swing status in general elections, is a presidential kingmaker.

So why don’t we do something about it? Yes, California has previously moved its primaries up in the calendar to try to make itself important. But that won’t work because the small-fry states of Iowa and New Hampshire have hoodwinked the country into believing that small, rural places are better presidential proving grounds and give a chance to lesser-known candidates. No matter where California shows up on the calendar, we are easily dismissed for our size—too big to be more than a test of money and name recognition.

If we’re going to take our proper place in picking presidents, we’ll need an entirely new strategy. We have to out-Iowa Iowa. We must make ourselves smaller.

How? California is a collection of regions the size of normal states. Our new strategy: pick one region that offers all the things Iowa offers—small population, a rural character, no big cities, an engaged political culture—and hold an early presidential contest in just that region.

Which region? My fellow Californians, let me introduce you to the Central Coast Caucus.

Offered to the nation as a single political entity, the six Central Coast counties—Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz—could answer every argument that’s ever been made for Iowa’s primacy.

You want a small population? The Central Coast has just 2.3 million people—800,000 less than the 3.1 million who crowd Iowa. You hate big cities? The Central Coast’s most populous municipality, Oxnard, has fewer people than the metropolis of Des Moines. You want rural voters who know their agriculture? Iowa has the corn, sure, but the Central Coast has Ventura berries, Salinas lettuce, and all the wineries in between. (Heavy drinking may be necessary for today’s presidential politics to make any sense).

Iowa and the Central Coast are middling places, between larger, more important regions. Both have relatively competitive politics that incorporate extremes, but tend to the moderate. While Iowans boast that they pick winners, the Central Coast includes the state’s most reliable political bellwether, San Benito County.

But the Central Coast, offers much more than Iowa—more diversity, stronger universities (UC Santa Cruz, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), better scenery (Big Sur), and more striking venues for campaign events (from Pebble Beach to the Neverland Ranch).

Instead of pursuing endorsements of obscure Iowa county party chairs, the Democrats would have an Oprah primary (she has a place in Montecito) and the Republicans would stage a Clint primary (Eastwood lives in Carmel). If you give the media and political professionals who dominate presidential politics a choice between the weather of Sioux City and Santa Maria, California would take Iowa’s crown.

The Central Coast Caucus would be good for California, too. The national attention would force our weak county parties to raise their games. With the new caucus’s central location, young people from all over the state would work on campaigns, and learn skills and make connections that can change their lives.

Overlooked issues would also get attention. Candidates would confront homelessness in Santa Barbara, the perils of offshore oil drilling, and drought. Public health might get a boost from candidates doing photo ops at hot yoga classes in Seaside instead of greasy spoons in Cedar Rapids. (I’d pay good money to see Ted Cruz try kite surfing). And who knows? Maybe the heavy reliance on migrant labor in Central Coast agriculture would force candidates to speak in more human ways about immigration.

The Central Coast Caucus would make sure that no one gets to be president without the sign-off of some Californians. And it would demonstrate California’s greatness; it only takes a small piece of this state to conquer the world.

Joe Mathews is California & innovation editor for Zócalo Public Square, for which he writes the Connecting California column.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly identified the Central Coast’s most populous municipality. It is Oxnard.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME California

More Evacuations as Northern California Blaze Grows

California Wildfires
Jeff Chiu—AP A firefighter watches a back fire along Morgan Valley Road near Lower Lake, Calif., Aug. 12, 2015

The fire has expanded across 32 square miles

(LOWER LAKE, Calif.) — At least 150 people have been evacuated from their homes as erratic winds Wednesday fanned a wildfire burning through rugged hills in Northern California and pushed the flames across two counties.

Many in the region about 100 miles north of San Francisco had only recently returned to their homes after fleeing an earlier blaze.

Crews lit backfires Wednesday along a road elsewhere in the region as plumes of black and white smoke rose into the sky.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the fire had expanded across 32 square miles and crews had the flames just 16 percent contained. Full containment wasn’t expected until Monday.

The fire began in dry timber and brush Sunday several miles from the community of Lower Lake. It leapt from Lake County into Napa County, but no vineyards were threatened in the famous wine-growing region.

Empire Mini Storage manager Desiree Mcalear said the business in Middletown has had numerous calls and visits from people who want to rent units in case they have to evacuate.

“They’re absolutely scared and terrified,” she said. “If the winds decide to blow this way, then we all need to take action. Right now, we have the luxury of waiting and being patient.”

More than 1,100 firefighters were battling the blaze that was threatening 50 structures. No homes have been destroyed, and no injuries have been reported.

Meanwhile, firefighters have nearly surrounded a larger nearby blaze that started about two weeks ago and destroyed 43 homes

The causes of both fires remained under investigation.

Temperatures have been relatively mild, but the gusty winds and dry conditions have stoked the wildfires.

In Southern California, evacuation orders were lifted as crews increased containment of a small wildfire sparked by a burning motor home in rural Riverside County.

One person from the motor home was burned, officials said. Three firefighters were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

The blaze about halfway between Temecula and Palm Desert had been held to 450 acres and was 50 percent contained, state fire officials said.

Statewide, 16 active wildfires were burning and being fought by more than 11,000 firefighters.


Associated Press writers Kristin J. Bender in San Francisco and Yara Bishara in Phoenix contributed to this report.

TIME California

Watch a Strangely Hypnotic Video of Thousands of Black Balls Rolling Into a Los Angeles Reservoir

No, it isn't some weird art installation

Black plastic balls have been dumped by the millions into L.A.’s reservoirs this summer—and with good reason.

Known as shade balls, they play an essential role in protecting the city’s water supply, which has been severely threatened by this year’s brutal California drought.

Among some of their benefits, the Los Angeles Daily News says they prevent the reservoir’s water from evaporation and pollution by wildlife. The balls even stop toxic chemical reactions caused by the sun from contaminating the water.

And the process is really cheap — around $250 million cheaper than any other preservation method available to the city, the paper reports.

The above video, made in western Los Angeles county, was released in June but the procedure was ongoing until Monday, when L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and other officials released 20,000 shade balls into a reservoir in the final stage.

[Los Angeles Daily News]

Read next: Cat Walks On Stage During Classical Concert, Everyone Just Carries On

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TIME Education

How I Built a Place to Keep Kids Out of Prison

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

I was tough on crime for years as a prosecutor, but then I realized that the kids who weren't in trouble needed help, too

I recently sat in an amphitheater in Salinas and watched students receive their high school diplomas and training certificates from the Drummond Culinary Academy. A few hours later, I attended the graduation ceremony for the Construction Academy. I spoke earlier that month at the ceremony for students graduating from the Silver Star youth program; many of these 15- to 18-year olds were on probation when they started it. In total, 43 high school diplomas were issued on the Rancho Cielo campus just this year, adding to the ranks of 200 graduates over the last decade who have received hands-on vocational training, college credits, and leadership training opportunities.

As I sat through these ceremonies, I recalled when I was a county prosecutor and the Rancho Cielo Youth Campus consisted of nothing but an unsightly 100-acre dumpsite on the foothills of Salinas. Today, Rancho Cielo is a comprehensive program to educate and train young people in Monterey County for job opportunities—and keep them out of incarceration facilities like the Natividad Boys Ranch that once occupied the site.

The former Natividad buildings have been renovated into classrooms and administration offices, the gym has been completely remodeled, and the old cafeteria now stands as a state-of-the-art culinary school and restaurant. We currently have a 600-person amphitheater, a transitional housing village constructed with the help of our construction academy students, two lakes, and miles of running and biking tracks all across campus. The transformation of our 100-acre facility occurred in less than 12 years.

The creation of Rancho Cielo is an unlikely story; my own participation in it was even more unlikely.

Salinas is primarily known as a rich agricultural region, the nation’s salad bowl. But the city also has gained notoriety for its gang violence and high youth homicide rate. I gained firsthand knowledge of the cycle of violence here—first during a long tenure as a Monterey County prosecutor and later as a Superior Court judge. I devoted most of my 21 years on the bench to criminal cases. During my career, I was responsible for sending a lot of young people to prison. That was my job.

By the mid-1990s, California had gotten tough on crime (“Use a gun and go to prison” and the three strikes law) and the legislature was severely restricting judicial discretion. At work, I found myself having to decide if an 18-year-old kid would be sentenced to 46 years to life—or 52 years to life. Most of the young people who stood before me were men of color who, because of multiple factors, had never had the opportunities that are supposed to be afforded to all our kids in this great nation.

There was also a bit of economic irony. Very few services were provided for young people involved in criminal activity before they got in trouble. But once the trigger was pulled, all sorts of resources were directed to them—police, prosecutors, a defense attorney, the judge, the judicial system, probation officers, and of course, prison incarceration. After a while, I didn’t feel as good as I once did about my job; I didn’t feel as if I was making things better. So I decided to do something about it.

I had learned there was one strategy that actually worked to engage disenfranchised young people—the combination of education, job training, and eventually, employment. These critical three experiences allow youth to reconnect with communities from which they feel alienated and help build the self-esteem and self-confidence that many lack.

I also knew of a county-owned, 100-acre, abandoned facility in Salinas—Natividad Boys Camp—and felt it would be the perfect location (beautiful land and just far enough from the streets of Salinas) for programs to help struggling youth regain trust in themselves and in our community. I tried to convince our county to restore the facility as a site for youth programs, but was told it would take $20 to $30 million to reopen the doors. It took the help of some friends in the legal community to form a nonprofit and convince the county to lease me the property.

Initially, my board of directors consisted of mainly elected officials. Frankly, we didn’t accomplish much. I was able to raise enough grant money to fund a feasibility study of my idea, but that $26,000 study concluded that the Rancho Cielo project was totally impossible. I decided to change direction and replaced my board of directors with people in the business community—construction industry leaders, in particular, since they were willing to get to work revamping the old building along with the kids.

I had no money but we moved forward anyways, commencing work on the property in 2003. When I arrived at 7 a.m. on that first Saturday morning, 75 pickup trucks already covered the hills; 22 dump trucks from various trucking companies lined the road. It was a beautiful sight to see. We never looked back.

We worked every Saturday and Sunday for the next six months until we could relocate an established probation and education program from the old hospital building. We did all this with a little bit of money and a lot of donated labor and materials. It was a true community project. One of the first out-of-pocket expenses was an electrically controlled gate at the entrance to the ranch—since providing a safe and peaceful campus for those who chose to turn their life around was essential to the success of the program.

I also insisted that no kids be sentenced to Rancho Cielo. Judges could recommend Rancho Cielo, but we wanted this ranch to be considered an opportunity for success rather than a punishment.

In 2004, I decided to retire from the bench and took over the running of the ranch as president and unpaid executive director. I also convinced my wife to come out of retirement to run the office. We did that for about four years until we could afford a full-time staff.

Today, there are nearly 150 students between the ages of 16 and 24 on campus every day. Forty percent of students are female, and nearly 70 percent of our students are on probation. Although Rancho Cielo is open to all of Monterey County, nearly 70 percent of our youth are residents of Salinas.

There are multiple programs on campus. The Silver Star youth program is a public-private partnership with Monterey County’s offices of probation, behavioral health, and education. We also run the Rancho Cielo Youth Corp, the Drummond Culinary Academy, the Rancho Cielo Construction Academy, and our newest program, the Independent Living Village—a transitional living program for homeless and at-risk Monterey County men between the ages of 18 and 24.

Our latest project, and by far the largest, is the Ted Taylor Vocational Center, a four-wing, 28,000-square-foot facility that will nearly double the number of students that we can serve. We are in the midst of our first-ever capital campaign in order to fund that project.

I am continually amazed at how the people in our vast county, from Salinas to the Monterey Peninsula, from King City to Pebble Beach, want to help. Many individuals in our community volunteer their time to mentor and educate our students, exposing them to the arts, music, camping, and recreation.

When you provide young people with an encouraging environment and the opportunity to rediscover themselves, they begin to hold their heads up high and start thinking, often for the first time, about their future. The model works; we’ve reduced recidivism 80 percent among students in the program (the rate of our students staying out of trouble is twice that of young people exiting incarceration without the benefit of our program). And the costs of our prevention and intervention programs amount to approximately 10 percent of the cost of incarceration.

We’ve found that 83 percent of our young people are still working or in college one year after they finish their program. Some 200 have graduated so far. As they enter, they pass a sign that reads, “You have just passed through the gates of opportunity—welcome to Rancho Cielo.”

John Phillips, a former Monterey County prosecutor and superior court judge, is founder of Rancho Cielo, and a newly elected county supervisor. This essay is part of Salinas: California’s Richest Poor City, a special project of Zócalo Public Square and the California Wellness Foundation.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME California

Child Contracts the Plague After Trip to Yosemite National Park

sign yosemite National Park California
Max Whittaker—Reuters A sign on the edge of Yosemite National Park, Calif., is surrounded by a burn from the Rim Fire on August 23, 2013.

The child reportedly got sick after visiting a campsite at Yosemite National Park

Public Health officials in California are investigating a case of the plague contracted by a child who had recently camped at Yosemite National Park. News of the investigation comes in the wake of reports of the recent death of a Colorado resident who had contracted the rare disease; that case marked the second plague death in Colorado this year.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the child—whose age, gender, ethnicity have not been released—got sick after camping at Yosemite’s Crane Flat Campground in mid-July. The child was hospitalized shortly after and is currently recovering. No one else that the child was camping with has reported being sick.

Public health officials say the last time a human case of the plague—it’s often found in fleas and rodents—was reported was in 2006. As a precaution, officials are warning residents to protect themselves from bugs using repellant containing DEET and to avoid feeding live, wild rodents and touching dead ones.

“Never feed squirrels, chipmunks, or other rodents in picnic or campground areas, and never touch sick or dead rodents. Protect your pets from fleas and keep them away from wild animals,” said Dr. Karen Smith, the director of the California Department of Health, in a statement.

Symptoms of the plague include high fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. When caught in the early stages, plague is treatable by antibiotics. Without treatment, the disease can kill.

TIME California

Crews Say There’s Progress in the Battle Against California Wildfires

California Wildfires
Jeff Chiu—AP Plants burned in the Rocky Fire are shown near Lower Lake, Calif., Aug. 4, 2015

“These are our friends, our family and our neighbors”

(MIDDLETOWN, Calif.) — Firefighters are reporting some progress against a Northern California wildfire that has charred more than 100 square miles of terrain, destroying buildings, threatening many others and sending thousands of residents fleeing.

As firefighters and equipment from outside the state poured in to battle the blaze burning about 100 miles north of San Francisco, more than 13,000 people were required or urged to leave their homes, vacation cabins and campsites.

Firefighting officials said crews made some progress Tuesday with some help from light rain. The blaze was 20 percent contained, but it was not expected to be corralled until at least Monday.

Teams were able to build a buffer between the flames and some of the estimated 6,900 homes it threatens. Despite the fire’s growth, no additional homes were consumed outside the two dozen already destroyed.

The fire, by far the largest of 11 burning in Northern California, started on July 29 in drought-withered brush that has not burned in years in the Lower Lake area. A cause has not been determined.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, has the wildfire listed as the nation’s highest priority for crews and equipment even as potentially destructive blazes burned in Oregon and Washington, spokesman Mike Ferris said.

He called the fire that has burned 101 square miles “one big monster.”

“In Northern California alone, all their resources are committed, and they are having to go outside the geographic area to get resources, whether it’s aircraft or firefighters,” Ferris said.

With more than 3,000 firefighters battling the smoky blaze and evacuees seeking shelter, motels were booked up for days within miles.

Margot Simpson, a manager at the Red Cross evacuation center set up at Middletown High School, said she hadn’t had any luck finding a room for a person in a wheelchair after searching four of the bigger nearby communities.

“I started in the phone book at the top of the list, and I started going down and I got nothing,” she said.

Many people not affected by the fires stepped up to help. Tabetha Atwood, the owner of Our Happy Tails Etc., a local doggy bakery, was helping to match frightened dogs with their owners at a command center at the Moose Lodge in Clearlake Oaks that was serving as a community assistance center.

Atwood also had dog treats on hand for people who came by with their pets while other volunteers gave out pillows, apples and piles of French toast to people displaced by the fire.

“These are our friends, our family and our neighbors,” she said.

By Tuesday afternoon, with 15- to 20-mph winds coming from the northwest, the Moose Lodge itself was being threatened and the people there asked to leave.

Layna Rivas of Clearlake Oaks tried to remain calm after checking the latest map showing the wildfire’sovernight progress. It showed the artists’ haven she has spent the last five years building directly in the flames’ path.

Rivas was thinking of her baby grand piano in a studio made out of straw bales.

“Worst part is I can’t get in to see what’s been damaged or no,” she said. “My heart is heavy at the thought of my once epic view of the valley that had an array of life and colors now grey and lifeless.”

Crews have conducted controlled burns, setting fire to shrubs to rob the blaze of fuel and protect homes in a rural area of grasslands and steep hills. Nearly a week into the fight, fatigue has set in.

“There were too many (spot fires) for us to pick up,” Battalion Chief Carl Schwettmann of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the San Francisco Chronicle. “With these drought-stricken fuels, it’s just moving at an extremely high rate of speed.”

Clear Lake, which at 70 square miles is the largest natural lake entirely within California, is a popular spot for boaters and campers. Despite the proximity of the fire, no homes around the lake were considered at risk on Tuesday, fire officials said.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the fire and has asked his aides to stay in close touch with California Gov. Jerry Brown and other local officials, the White House said.


Bender reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writer Lisa Leff in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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