California News

Friday, June 14, 2019

911 Upgrade Could Cost Californians Despite Budget Surplus

A $214.8 billion budget approved Thursday by California lawmakers would upgrade the state's aging 911 system following the most devastating wildfire season in state history and help middle class families pay their monthly health insurance premiums. To fund those changes, however, lawmakers want to impose a new monthly fee on phone bills and tax people who refuse to buy private health insurance, even though the state has a projected $21.5 billion surplus, the largest in at least 20 years. Republican Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, said it's "unconscionable" to ask taxpayers to fund the 911 upgrades when there is such a large surplus. Democrats, who have super majorities in both houses of the Legislature, counter that they don't want to use the surplus to pay for ongoing expenses, something previous Legislatures were eager to do and led to multi-billion dollar budget deficits when the economy soured.

1 dead, another treated after hazmat spill in Merced County

One person is dead and was treated following a hazmat spill in the Los Banos area. It happened around noon in the area of Monroe Avenue and China Camp Road. Crews have not yet given details about the chemical that was spilled in the accident. A total of nine people, including responding deputies and medical personnel, were also treated for exposure. Investigators were on scene for hours, and while deputies aren't releasing the chemical involved just yet, they say it's agriculture related. Joe Gutierrez saw the street near his home blocked off when he came home from work... later learning the news of his neighbor that lives down the road. "It's horrible for the family. The community feels bad. Our thoughts and prayers go to the family," he said. Gutierrez identified the man who died as John Menezes, though deputies have not confirmed that information at this time.
KFSN-TV ABC 30 Fresno

Special elections keep fire services alive in Placer County

Placer County residents have voted to strengthen fire services in Foresthill and Placer Hills. At the county’s special elections on May 7, voters approved two ballot measures aimed at improving local fire services by establishing a new $185 annual special tax for Placer Hills Fire District and $240 for the Foresthill Fire District, according to Kirk Kushen, fire chief for Placer Hills, Foresthill and Newcastle. Placer Hills will now have access to $925,000 of yearly additional revenue, and Foresthill will have $760,000, Kushen said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. The additional revenue is essential to the viability of these two fire districts, Kushen said. “We’re in the foothills of the wild-urban interface, which is an area where forested foothills have communities residing within them,” Kushen said. “We have grass, brush and timber within our communities. We have a very, very high fire danger rating.”
Sacramento Bee

Update: Man Released in Hermosa Beach Strand Construction Fire After Officers Recognize Different Suspect

After a 27-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with a blazing inferno on the Hermosa Beach Strand that damaged five homes in all, police released the original suspect and arrested a different man Friday. Michael Christopher Kotva, 27, who was initially arrested on suspicion of arson, was released with no charges, Hermosa Beach police said. Kotva's mother told NBCLA Thursday after his arrest that he was just in the wrong place and the wrong time, and happened to be walking by when the fire broke out at 2 a.m. After further investigation, Keith Yessner, 50, of La Quinta, California, was then taken into custody after police reviewed surveillance footage from the home. Yessner has apparently had other run-ins with Hermosa Beach police, and officers said they recognized him on the video. Neighbors awoke at 2 a.m. Thursday to the 150-foot tall flames swallowing a home under construction in the 800 block of The Strand, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.
NBC Los Angeles

Soboba fire opens new station

With a nod to the past and an eye to the future, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians officially opened its new fire station east of the Soboba Casino Resort June 7. Speakers and a ribbon-cutting ceremony preceded facility tours and lunch. The paved area behind the station displayed the department's three vehicles: Engine 1, a brush engine and a tractor-driven truck, also known as a tiller truck. Master of ceremonies and Tribal Administrator Michael Castello welcomed invited guests inside the three-bay area with polished concrete that was filled with tables and chairs to accommodate about 300 people of all ages that came to share in the occasion. "We've been working on this for more than a decade and are very proud and honored to showcase it with all of you today," he said.
Temecula Valley News

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Services Set for Cal Fire Firefighter Killed in Merced County Crash

Funeral services in Clovis have been scheduled for a Cal Fire firefighter who died in a car crash in Merced County. A celebration of life is set for Monday, June 17, for Stacy Hamilton, a Fresno County resident and Cal Fire captain. He was 49. The service will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at Clovis Hills Community Church, 10590 N. Willow Ave., under the direction of Boice Funeral Home. Donations in Hamilton’s name can be made to the California Department of Forestry Firefighters Benevolent Foundation. According to the California Highway Patrol, Hamilton was traveling alone early Saturday when his 2004 Subaru Outback left the roadway and overturned in a remote area between Merced and Snelling. The crash was reported to the CHP at 2:20 a.m.
GV Wire

Auburn’s Fire Safety Plan Includes Hiring 7 Temporary Firefighters

Living in California’s beautiful, golden foothills comes with a risk the residents of Auburn are well aware of. "Fire danger is certainly something that's very real. So, you got to think about it," said Auburn resident Calvin Armstrong. The city of 14,000 people is surrounded by dry grass and hillsides. Yet, the Auburn City Fire Department has only one fire station staffed full-time. "We're well staffed with equipment. We just need people," said Auburn City Fire Chief Dave Spencer. Spencer went before the city council with a fire safety plan. "We need an aggressive plan to try to keep the community safe," he said. It includes the hiring of seven additional firefighters and reopening a station at Auburn Folsom Road and Maidu Drive full-time. Citizens and council members agreed something needs to be done, especially in this era of increasing wildfire activity and intensity.
KTXL-TV Fox 40 Sacramento

3-story home under construction burns in Hermosa Beach, spreads to other homes; suspect detained

A “person of interest” was questioned by arson investigators Thursday morning after a two-alarm fire damaged a three-story home under construction in Hermosa Beach and spread to four other nearby homes before it was extinguished. The fire was reported shortly before 2 a.m. on the 800 block of The Strand and was extinguished in about an hour, the Los Angeles County Fire Department reported. One firefighter suffered a minor injury, and was treated at a hospital, said county fire Inspector Brian Stevens. The cause of the fire was under investigation. Stevens said Hermosa Beach police detained a “person of interest” who was running from the area, and he was being questioned by authorities. Four homes were damaged and about six residents were briefly evacuated, Stevens said.
Torrance Daily Breeze - Metered Site

Turlock balances $40M budget by partially closing a fire station, making other cuts

The Turlock City Council has approved a spending plan for the upcoming budget year that calls for big reductions in services, including closing one of the city’s four fire stations one third to one half of the time as the city digs itself out from the overspending of the previous council. While acknowledging it is not a budget they like but one that was necessary, council members voted 5-0 at their Tuesday meeting to approve Turlock’s 2019-20 budget, which starts July 1. The focus was on the budget’s roughly $40 million general fund, where the reductions will be felt, and where the previous City Council approved spending that has drawn down the fund’s reserves. That spending has included hiring more people and approving higher pay. The police and fire departments make up about 75 percent of the general fund.
The Modesto Bee

Fast-moving fire on Buttonwood Winery land in Solvang burns 1.4 acres of dry grass

Fire crews from Station 30 in Solvang responded to a vegetation fire at 11 a.m. on the 39-acre Buttonwood Winery & Vineyard property, located off the 1200 block of Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang. Buttonwood winemaker Karen Steinwachs said the fast-moving fire was started by a mower hitting a rock and burned 1.4 acres of dry grass in the back canyon of the property west of the cabernet sauvignon vines before firefighters extinguished it. Steinwachs said she was shaken up but no people or vines were harmed. "It was really scary. It moved so fast," Steinwachs said. "They (firefighters) were here quick and had it out in 15 minutes." Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said the fire burned in a canyon but was surrounded on three sides by vineyards, which helped the effort to control the flames.
Santa Ynez Valley News

‘We avoided a wildland fire’; PG&E says power shutoffs in Butte, Yuba counties worked

As part of its newly expanded Public Safety Power Shutoff program aimed at preventing wildfires, PG&E cut power to some 27,000 customers this past weekend. It’s a good thing they did, said PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno. He said when crews went out and patrolled power lines, they found cases where weather interfered with the power lines. “We found tree branches tangled into high-voltage power lines, which were bare and had they been energized at the time, could've caused a situation," Moreno said. "We also found cases where customers' service lines... were also downed in that event… We avoided, obviously, a wildland fire in this situation." PG&E warns customers that with its power shutoff plan, people can lose power for days. In the case of the power outages this past weekend in Butte and Yuba counties, power was off for less than 24 hours. During that time, PG&E crews inspected 800 miles of power lines to ensure they were safe to reenergize.
ABC 10 News

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