TIME cities

Eight Firefighters Were Injured Battling a Los Angeles Blaze

The fire occurred in a storage building full of combustibles but without a sprinkler system

A huge blaze in a “death trap” of a building in Los Angeles led to eight firefighters sustaining injuries, local fire officials have said.

The building, a storage facility, was packed with flammable materials, including vinyl records and furniture, yet it had no sprinkler system, was organized “like a mouse maze,” and had poor ventilation, Reuters reports.

More than 360 firefighters were called in to fight the “extremely hot and stubborn major emergency blaze” on Saturday overnight, the Los Angeles fire department said in a statement. Though much of it was contained within six hours, putting the fire out took just over 14 hours in total.

“Firefighters battled until they were low on air, and had to exit to get new air bottles, then rejoined the fight,” the department says. Firefighters also had to slice through the building’s metal roof to let smoke escape.

Five of the eight injured firefighters, all of whom suffered non-life-threatening injuries, required hospital care but were released, the fire department said.

About one-third of the building was damaged in the blaze, and “loss to the building’s contents, which included many family heirlooms, is inestimable,” the department says.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

[Reuters]

TIME Autos

More Than 200,000 GM Cars Have Been Recalled for a Brake Defect

Los Angeles Auto Show Previews Latest Car Models
The Cadillac 2013 XTS is unveiled during the LA Auto Show on November 16, 2011 in Los Angeles. Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images

The problem has been reported in the 2013-2015 Cadillac XTS and the 2014-2015 Chevrolet Impala

The latest in a series of recalls from General Motors was announced over the weekend, with hundreds of thousands of cars being pulled off the roads due to defective parking brakes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that brake-indicator lights in at least two GM models failed to illuminate when the brake was not retracted completely, according to Reuters.

“Brake pads that remain partially engaged with the rotors may cause excessive brake heat that may result in a fire,” NHTSA said.

The problem has been reported in the 2013-2015 Cadillac XTS and the 2014-2015 Chevrolet Impala, and General Motors said 221,558 vehicles have been recalled so far.

“GM is not aware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities as a result of this condition,” the company said.

General Motors has already recalled more than 15 million cars this year, because of a problem with ignition switches that has resulted in at least 19 deaths.

[Reuters]

TIME Tablets

Amazon Unveils $99 Tablet, Refresh of Fire HDX Line

The kiddie Fire HD prohibits tots from making in-app purchases--a solution to an issue the company has run into in the past

A slew of new products and updates to Amazon’s Kindle reader and Fire tablet lines are on their way, the company announced Wednesday–the biggest announcement of all that they’ll offer a new Fire device for just $99.

The new Fire HD comes in six and seven-inch models, with the smaller version costing $99 and the larger one costing $139. The device features a quad-core, 1.5 Ghz processor that Amazon says can run graphically intensive games. Front and rear-facing cameras should make selfies a breeze, and all the new devices will have unlimited photo storage in Amazon’s cloud services. The company claims that its new tiny tablets are more resistant to falls than any other devices on the market, including the iPad Air.

Amazon is also rolling out a slightly more expensive but nearly identical product aimed at kids. The Fire HD Kids Edition will have all the same features as the regular edition, but will also include a kid-centric interface called FreeTime, which serves up videos, books and apps aimed at children. The FreeTime mode prohibits kids from making in-app purchases–an issue Amazon has been accused of negligence on by the Federal Trade Commission. (Amazon is challenging those allegations in court).

The kiddie Fire HD also comes with a colorful protective case and a free year of FreeTime Unlimited, which is an all-you-can-eat subscription-based service that gives kids access to a variety of entertainment content. The 6-inch kids’ tablet is $149 and the 7-inch version is $189.

On the other end of the audience spectrum, Amazon announced a new version of a high-end tablet, the Fire HDX, which features an 8.9-inch screen, has a faster processor that clocks in at 2.5 Ghz, and which, at 13.2 ounces, is 20% lighter than the iPad Air. The new Fire HDX will also feature faster Wi-Fi, improved Dolby audio and a new dynamic light control system that changes the display to accommodate ambient light, making it more similar to the paper-like screen of the Kindle.

Amazon will also include a suite of office software called WPS Office, to encourage using the Fire HDX (and the cheaper Fire HD) as a productivity device. A super-thin keyboard made specifically for the new tablet will sell separately for $59.99. The HDX will cost $379 for the basic version, while the 4G-enabled version will cost $479.

Tying all these products together will be a new version of Amazon’s mobile operating system, Fire OS 4 (also known as “Sangria”). The new OS is packed with a lot of new features, including a service called Family Library that allows family members to share games, videos and other content they’ve purchased across multiple devices. Family members will also be able to create individual profiles on a single device with different app and content lineups to allow for easier sharing.

Fire OS 4 also pulls in some of the most prominent features from Amazon’s two new product lines this year: the Fire TV and the Fire Phone. Firefly, which lets people scan real-world objects to find out more information about them, will now be available on all the tablets, as will a video pre-buffering feature from the Fire TV called Advanced Streaming and Prediction. The popular Mayday button, which provides 24/7 customer support, will also make a return.

The devices continue Amazon’s habit of undercutting competitors on price by selling fairly sophisticated products at relatively low cost. It’s a strategy that’s a boon for customers, if not for Amazon’s bottom line. The company lost $126 million in the most recent quarter.

All the devices are available for pre-order now on Amazon.com and will begin shipping in October.

TIME

Raging Wildfire in Orange County Causes Mandatory Evacuations

Southern California Wildfire
More than 280 firefighters are aided by water dropping helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft as they battle a 1,300-acre fire in Silverado Canyon, Calif., in Southern Orange County, Sept. 12, 2014. Mark Boster—Los Angeles Times/AP

As of Saturday morning the Silverado Canyon fire was just 10% contained as mandatory evacuations were underway

By 9 a.m. Saturday, a large fire in Orange County, California had scorched 1,600 acres less than 24 hours after it had started, prompting mandatory evacuations of homes in Silverado Canyon.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries but were released from the hospital, reports the Los Angeles Times. Thirty homes were evacuated along Silverado Canyon Road, and the fire was just 10% contained as of Saturday morning, according to the Orange County Register. More than 700 firefighters are now battling the blaze.

Fueled by hot weather and tinder-dry vegetation, the brush fire has spread into difficult-to-reach terrain, firefighters said, burning chaparral and oak trees that “had not burned in several years,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz said.

Water-dropping aircraft assisted firefighters trying to hold back flames atop ridgelines near Corona.

The fire was first reported Friday morning at 10:32.

[LA Times]

 

TIME cities

Detroit May Finally Get Rid of Its Soda Can Emergency Alert System

Several tech companies have reached out to the city's underfunded fire department offering to replace its Faygo can alerts

The soda can acting as the Detroit Fire Department’s emergency alert system may finally get tossed.

Several tech companies have reached out to the city’s underfunded fire department following a Detroit Free Press story and video showing firefighters receiving emergency alerts by placing a Faygo can filled with coins and screws atop their fax machine. When a fax is received, the can falls and rattles, alerting nearby firefighters of an emergency.

“I just could not believe it,” George Faucher, president and CEO of computer software company CorreLog, told the Free Press. “I thought it was a joke at first.”

It did become a joke after being featured on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report this week. “It’s pretty silly,” Detroit firefighter Paul Fillmore says in the clip. “And if you’re not in the room to hear it, you could be in trouble.”

According to the Free Press, seven software companies have offered to donate modern-day emergency alert systems to the department. Faucher told the newspaper that the $10,000 system, which his company would donate, would be “a thousand times better than a Coke can falling over.”

TIME Natural Disasters

The Most Beautiful Wildfire Photos You’ll Ever See

The fire near Yosemite National Park's most popular and iconic features is still only 10% contained

At first, you don’t see the fire and smoke raging near the most beautiful section of America’s most beautiful national park. Instead, the blaze that’s burned through 4,500 acres of Yosemite blends almost seamlessly into its natural features: the fire looking an extension of the sunset; the smoke appearing nothing more than a layer of fog above the valley floor.

Photographer Stuart Palley captured the wildfire when it first began spreading early this week. He says he always thought if there was a forest fire near Half Dome, the gray granite formation that’s one of Yosemite’s most popular and iconic features, it would make for a stunning photograph. So when he heard over the weekend about the growing fire, he drove seven hours to Yosemite from Los Angeles to shoot it overnight from the vantage of nearby Glacier Point.

While much of the west and southwest are experiencing some level of drought, roughly 80% of California is suffering from “extreme drought” conditions, and about 60% of the state is experiencing “exceptional” drought as little rainfall over the last two years have brought reservoir levels to 60% of their historical average.

According to reports, the fire appears to have recently slowed. Eight helicopters and roughly 400 firefighters have been deployed to fight the wildfire, which forced the evacuation of dozens of hikers in the area surrounding Yosemite Valley. But at last estimate, the fire was only 10% contained.

TIME weather

New Ultra High-Def Satellite Shows Mind-Blowing View of a Forest Fire

A forest fire at the Happy Camp complex in California’s Klamath National Forest imaged with (left) and without (right) SWIR, in Aug. 2014.
A forest fire at the Happy Camp complex in California’s Klamath National Forest imaged with (left) and without (right) SWIR, in Aug. 2014. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe

The new technology can penetrate thick clouds of smoke to reveal clear images

State-of-the-art imaging technology on board DigitalGlobe’s recently launched WorldView-3 satellite offers unprecedented views of world events. The technology, known as Shortwave Infrared Imagery, or SWIR, can penetrate thick clouds of smoke, as shown in the above image of a forest fire. The photo reveals a clear image of an August fire at the Happy Camp complex in California’s Klamath National Forest.

Previous images of the event were covered in a dense cloud of smoke.

TIME viral

Dear Teens: Please Stop Lighting Yourselves on Fire

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Mark Weiss—Getty Images

The newest viral video trend is literally on fire

Trends change with the seasons, and for America’s Internet-addled teens, there is nothing more trendy than melting skin. Now that the season for tossing boiling water into sub-zero air is far behind us, listless teens have found new ways to critically burn themselves. Betraying a nostalgia for simpler times, some of today’s young adults have returned to the most reliable route to injury in the name of YouTube infamy: dousing your body in accelerant and just straight up lighting yourself on fire.

The Daily Dot reports that videos of teens purposefully engulfing themselves in flames are spreading like wildfire across social media platforms like Vine and YouTube. One Kentucky teen whose video went viral even had to be treated for second-degree burns to his torso.

It is scientifically proven that hormones are extremely flammable even without the help of lighter fluid. This is why it is absolutely crucial for teens to stay away from anything that poses a fire hazard, such as matchbooks or a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

So, kiddos, please step away from the lighter fluid or I will use it to burn this One Direction poster, and you wouldn’t want that now, would you?

TIME weather

California Firefighters Battle ‘Sand Fire’ Blaze

Around 1,500 firefighters in Northern California were trying to contain the Sand Fire Sunday, officials said. The blaze has so far destroyed at least 10 homes and forced hundreds to evacuate

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