Wildfires have burned a record 2 million acres in California this year, the US Forest Service said.
The danger for more destruction is so high that the US Forest Service announced Monday it was closing all eight national forests in the southern half of the state, reports AP.
After a typically dry summer, California is parched heading into fall and what normally is the most dangerous time for wildfires. Two of the three largest fires in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area.
More than 14,000 firefighters are battling those fires and dozens of others more around California.
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.
The state's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, was preparing to cut power to 158,000 customers in 21 counties in the northern half of the state to reduce the possibility its lines and other equipment could spark new fires.
Randy Moore, regional forester for the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region that covers California, announced the national forest closures and said the decision would be re-evaluated daily.
Campgrounds at all national forests in the state also were closed.
“The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously," Moore said. “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.
While the two mammoth Bay Area fires were largely contained after burning for three weeks, firefighters struggled to corral several other major blazes ahead of the expected winds.
Evacuation orders were expanded to more mountain communities Monday as the largest blaze, the Creek Fire, churned through the Sierra National Forest in Central California.
It was one of many recent major fires that has displayed terrifyingly swift movement. The fire moved 24 kilometers in a single day and burned 145.04 square kilometers.
Evacuation orders were expanded Monday to more mountain communities as a huge wildfire churned through California’s Sierra National Forest, one of dozens of blazes crews battled during a heat wave that shattered records across the state.
Firefighters working in steep terrain through the night saved the tiny town of Shaver Lake from flames that roared down hillsides toward a marina. To the north, about 30 houses were destroyed in the remote hamlet of Big Creek.
“About half the private homes in town burned down,” Big Creek resident Toby Wait said. “Words cannot even begin to describe the devastation of this community. And it is a very close-knit community.”
An elementary school, church, library, historic general store and a major hydroelectric plant were spared in the community of about 200 residents, wait told the Fresno Bee.
Sheriff’s deputies went door to door to make sure residents were complying with orders to leave. Officials hoped to keep the fire from pushing west into rural towns along State Route 41 and possibly Yosemite National Park.
The blaze dubbed the Creek Fire has charred more than 114 square miles (295 square kilometers) of timber after breaking out Friday. The 850 firefighters on the scene had yet to get any containment after three days of work in sweltering heat. There was no official tabulation yet of structures lost.
On Saturday, rescuers in military helicopters airlifted 207 people to safety after flames trapped them in a wooded camping area near Mammoth Pool Reservoir northeast of Fresno.
In Southern California, crews scrambled to douse several fires that roared to life in searing temperatures, including one that closed mountain roads in Angeles National Forest. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said a blaze in San Bernardino County called the El Dorado Fire started Saturday morning and was caused by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender.
A fire in the Angeles National Forest northeast of Los Angeles forced the evacuation of Mount Wilson Observatory.
In eastern San Diego County, the Valley Fire broke had destroyed at least 10 structures after burning 16 square miles (41.44 square kilometers) and prompting evacuations near the remote community of Alpine in the Cleveland National Forest.
Daytime temperatures in fire zones neared or exceeded triple digits. Downtown Los Angeles reached 111 degrees (44 Celsius) on Sunday and a record-shattering high of 121 degrees (49.4 Celsius) was recorded in the nearby Woodland Hills neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. It was the highest temperature ever recorded in Los Angeles County, according to the National Weather Service.
Meanwhile, downtown San Francisco set a record for the day with a high of 100 (37.7 Celsius) on Sunday, smashing the previous mark by 5 degrees.
The exceptionally hot temperatures were driving the highest power use of the year, and transmission losses because of wildfires have cut into supplies. The California Independent System Operator that manages the state’s power grid warned that up to 3 million people could lose power Sunday if the if residents didn’t curtail their electricity usage.
About 7 pm, the agency declared an emergency and said power outages were imminent because a transmission line carrying power from Oregon to California and another in-state power plant went offline unexpectedly. But about 8:30 p.m., the agency issued a tweet calling off the emergency “thanks to conservation of Californians!.” It said no power outages were ordered.
The weather forecast called for more heat Monday and the grid operators again urged people to conserve power between 3 pm and 9 pm when usage is highest. Cooler temperatures were expected Tuesday but the weather change also was expected to bring winds that could fan wildfires.
Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility serving customers in Central and Northern California, warned customers that it might cut power starting Tuesday because of the increased fire danger. Some of the state’s largest and deadliest fires in recent years have been sparked by downed power lines and other utility equipment. All of Northern California has moderate to severe drought conditions.
Cal Fire said 14,800 firefighters were battling 23 major fires in the state. California has seen 900 wildfires since Aug. 15, many of them started by an intense series of thousands of lightning strikes. The blazes have burned more than 1.5 million acres (2,343 square miles). There have been eight fire deaths and more than 3,300 structures destroyed.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren suspended seven police officers involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York.
Prude, 41, who was Black, died when he was taken off life support March 30, reports AP.
That was seven days after officers who encountered him running naked through the street put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced the suspensions at a news conference amid outrage that city officials had previously kept quiet about Prude's death.
While denying a cover-up, Warren acknowledged that Prude “was failed by the police department, our mental health care system, our society, and he was failed by me."
Hours after the announcement, a crowd of protesters unswayed by the suspensions demonstrated late into the night outside Rochester’s police headquarters. Officers doused some protesters with a chemical spray and repeatedly fired an irritant into the crowd to drive activists away from metal barricades ringing the building. Protesters protected themselves with umbrellas, dashed for cover, then returned to be fired on again.
Journalists were among those hit by pellets during the confrontation, which came on the second day of peaceful demonstrations over Prude's death.
The mayor said she only became aware that Prude's death involved the use of force on August 4.
Initially, she said, Police Chief La’Ron Singletary portrayed it as a drug overdose, which is “entirely different” than what Warren said she witnessed in body camera video. The mayor said she told the chief she was “deeply, personally and professionally disappointed” in his failure to accurately inform her what happened to Prude.
Warren said the seven officers would still be paid because of contract rules and that she was taking the action against the advice of attorneys.
“I understand that the union may sue the city for this. They shall feel free to do so,” she said.
Approached at a community event, Singletary declined to comment but said he would speak later.
Messages left with the union representing Rochester police officers were not returned.
Prude's death happened just as the coronavirus was raging out of control in New York and received no public attention at the time.
His family held a news conference Wednesday and released police body camera video obtained through a public records request that captured his fatal interaction with the officers.
The videos and other records detailed how police had gone looking for Prude after he bolted from his brother's home early on March 23, hours after receiving a mental health evaluation at a hospital.
When officers found Prude he was completely naked, on the street in a light snow. He lay on the ground as they handcuffed him, then grew agitated, shouting and writhing and demanding that the officers give him a gun.
Officers put a hood over his head because he had been spitting and then pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes, police video shows.
The hoods are intended to protect officers from a detainee’s saliva and have been scrutinized as a factor in the deaths of several prisoners in recent years.
The videos show Prude, his voice muffled by the hood, begging the white officer pushing his head down to let him go. As the officer, Mark Vaughn, says, “Calm down” and “Stop spitting,” Prude’s shouts became anguished whimpers and grunts.
“OK, stop. I need it. I need it,” Prude says.
The officer lets Prude go after about two minutes when he stops moving and falls silent. Officers then notice water coming out of Prude’s mouth and call over waiting medics, who start CPR.
A medical examiner concluded that Prude’s death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report lists excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, as contributing factors.
In his final months, Prude, who was known to his Chicago-based family as “Rell,” had been having mental health problems and had been going back and forth between his Chicago home and his brother’s place in Rochester, relatives said.
“My father should have been met with a mental health specialist. He should not have been killed in the street,” his 18-year-old daughter, Tashyra Prude, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “He did not deserve that. He was treated like an animal. And I want this to be a step toward justice for not only my father, but justice for people like Breonna Taylor, who were killed by the police.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office took over the investigation of the death in April. It is still not complete.
"The Prude family and the greater Rochester community deserve answers, and we will continue to work around the clock to provide them,” James said in a statement Thursday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that he watched video of Prude's fatal encounter with police Wednesday night.
“What I saw was deeply disturbing and I demand answers," he said, adding that he was confident James' investigation would be thorough. “For the sake of Mr. Prude’s family and the greater Rochester community I am calling for this case to be concluded as expeditiously as possible."
Demonstrators came out on Thursday evening for a second straight night, about 200 of them gathering near the street corner where Prude was restrained by police. Some activists felt suspending the officers was not enough.
Researchers in the United States are stepping up efforts to work out an effective COVID-19 vaccine as another vaccine candidate has started phase 3 clinical trial on Monday.
The multi-site clinical trial evaluating an investigational COVID-19 vaccine, known as AZD1222, will enroll approximately 30,000 adult volunteers at 80 sites in the United States to evaluate if the candidate vaccine can prevent COVID-19, said the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Participants will be randomly assigned to the investigational vaccine group or the placebo group, and neither the investigators nor the participants will know who is assigned to which group.
After an initial screening, participants will receive two injections of either the investigational vaccine or a saline placebo approximately four weeks apart.
One person will receive a placebo injection for every two people who receive AZD1222, which will result in approximately 20,000 people receiving the investigational vaccine and 10,000 people receiving a placebo.
The trial primarily is designed to determine if AZD1222 can prevent symptomatic COVID-19 after two doses.
The trial also will evaluate if the vaccine candidate can prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection regardless of symptoms and if it can prevent severe COVID-19. It also will assess if the experimental vaccine can reduce the incidence of emergency department visits due to COVID-19, according to the NIH.
The United Kingdom-based global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is leading the trial as regulatory sponsor. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority are providing funding support for the trial.
The vaccine candidate uses a non-replicating chimpanzee adenovirus to deliver a SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to induce an immune response, said the NIH.
"Safe and effective vaccines will be essential to meet the global need for widespread protection against COVID-19," said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci.
"Positive results from preclinical research led by NIH scientists supported the rapid development of this vaccine candidate, which has also showed promise in early-stage clinical trials," he said.
The United States has been stepping up research on vaccines, drugs and therapies for COVID-19 as confirmed cases hit over 6,062,000 and fatalities surpassed 184,200 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Last month, the NIH announced the start of a randomized, controlled clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of a treatment regimen consisting of the antiviral remdesivir plus the immunomodulator interferon beta-1a in COVID-19 patients.
The trial was anticipated to enroll more than 1,000 hospitalized adults with COVID-19 at as many as 100 sites in the United States and abroad.
Another experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the NIAID and American biotechnology company Moderna, known as mRNA-1273, started phase 3 clinical trial in late July to evaluate if it can prevent COVID-19 in adults.
The trial, scheduled to be conducted at U.S. clinical research sites, was expected to enroll approximately 30,000 adult volunteers who do not have COVID-19.
One person was shot and killed late Saturday in Portland, Oregon, as a large caravan of President Donald Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters clashed in the streets, police said.
It wasn’t clear if the shooting was linked to fights that broke out as a caravan of about 600 vehicles was confronted by counter-demonstrators in the city’s downtown.
Police said the caravan had left the area around 8:30 p.m., and officers heard gunshots at about 8:46 p.m., according to a statement Officers arrived at the shooting scene “within a minute,” police said, but the man who was shot did not survive.
An Associated Press freelance photographer heard three gunshots and then observed police medics working on the body of the victim, who appeared to be a white man. The freelancer said the man was wearing a hat bearing the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group whose members have frequently clashed with protesters in Portland in the past.
Police said the man was shot in the chest. He was not immediately identified. It’s unclear who shot him.
Homicide detectives were looking for more evidence, acknowledging that several images and videos had been posted on social media.
“It is important for detectives get a full and accurate picture of what happened before, during, and after the shooting,” a police statement said. “If anyone was a witness, has video, or has information about the homicide, they’re asked to contact the primary detectives.”
“This violence is completely unacceptable and we are working diligently to find and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible,” Chief Chuck Lovell said.
Portland has been the site of nightly protests for more than three months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Many of them end in vandalism and violence, and hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested by local and federal law enforcement since late May.
In the two hours following the shooting, protesters gathered downtown and there was sporadic fighting and vandalism, police stated. Some gave speeches in Lownsdale Square Park before the protest petered out. Ten people were arrested, police said.
The caravan had arrived downtown just as a protest planned for Saturday was getting underway. The chaotic scene came two days after Trump invoked Portland as a liberal city overrun with violence in a speech at the Republican National Convention as part of his “law and order” re-election campaign theme. The caravan marked the third Saturday in a row that Trump supporters have rallied in the city.
Trump and other speakers at last week’s convention evoked a violent, dystopian future if Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden wins in November and pointed to Portland as a cautionary tale for what would be in store for Americans.
The pro-Trump rally’s organizer, who recently coordinated a similar caravan in Boise, Idaho, said in a video posted on Twitter Saturday afternoon that attendees should only carry concealed weapons and the route was being kept secret for safety reasons.
The caravan had gathered earlier in the day at a suburban mall and drove as a group to the heart of Portland. As they arrived in the city, protesters attempted to stop them by standing in the street and blocking bridges.
Videos from the scene showed sporadic fighting, as well as Trump supporters firing paintball pellets at opponents and using bear spray as counter-protesters threw things at the Trump caravan.
The Black Lives Matter demonstrations usually target police buildings and federal buildings. Some protesters have called for reductions in police budgets while the city’s mayor and some in the Black community have decried the violence, saying it’s counterproductive.
Early Saturday morning, fires set outside a police union building that is a frequent site for protests prompted police to declare a riot.
An accelerant was used to ignite a mattress and other debris that was laid against the door of the Portland Police Association building, police said in a statement. At least one dumpster had also been set on fire in the street nearby.
The commotion followed a sit-in in the lobby of the Portland mayor’s condominium building Friday night.