California’s deadliest wildfire finally tamed

The so-called Camp Fire, which broke out on November 8, is so far known to have killed 85 people. (AP)
Updated 26 November 2018
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California’s deadliest wildfire finally tamed

  • A total of 153,336 acres were affected by the fire, with nearly 14,000 homes and hundreds of other structures destroyed
  • Heavy downfalls that have soaked the fire zone in the past days helped douse the remaining flames, but also made it more difficult for crews searching for bodies

LOS ANGELES: The deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history was finally brought totally under control by firefighters, more than two weeks after it erupted, authorities said on Sunday.
The so-called Camp Fire, which broke out on November 8, is so far known to have killed 85 people.
The Butte County Sheriff’s department said that they had mistakenly added two people to an earlier death toll of 87.
However late Sunday they increased the number of missing people to 296 from 249 — still considerably lower than the 474 reported missing on Friday.
“#CampFire ... is now 100% contained,” Cal Fire, the state fire authority, said in a bulletin on Twitter.
Only 54 of the fatalities have been identified, according to the local sheriff’s office in Butte County, a rural area north of the state capital Sacramento.
A total of 153,336 acres were affected by the fire, with nearly 14,000 homes and hundreds of other structures destroyed.
Heavy downfalls that have soaked the fire zone in the past days helped douse the remaining flames, but also made it more difficult for crews searching for bodies.
The Camp Fire was the second major blaze to hit California in recent weeks with a fire in the Malibu area near Los Angeles also killing three people.
The smoke from the Camp Fire was so intense that schools in San Francisco had to close at one point earlier this month as did the city’s famed cable car and Alcatraz Island.
California’s governor, Jerry Brown, has warned that the state can expect a growing number of major fires as a result of global warming.
US President Donald Trump, who visited one of the worst-hit towns called Paradise last weekend, caused some consternation by saying that the fires were due in part to forestry mismanagement.
Ahead of the announcement that the fire has been totally tamed, authorities had already begun letting residents return to some of the worst hit areas to inspect the damage to their homes.
In a joint bulletin posted on Saturday, the police and fire service said evacuation orders that had in place for some areas over the last fortnight were being lifted for both residents and non-residents, while warning that essential services were still “very limited.”
“Prior to returning home, residents are encouraged to take steps to ensure they have food, water and fuel for their vehicles,” said the statement.
While Brown has warned that mega fires such as those in Butte and Malibu will cease to be “abnormal” events, the state has allocated about $1 billion over the next five years for fire prevention.
Much of the cash will go on education and suppression activities such as clearing grasses and other vegetation, according to officials.
But many experts are calling for more restrictions on housing being built in forests as a means of eliminating danger before the blazes even break out. “I think people are thinking about if there is a way we can design the new Paradise that can look like more of a European village or a ski town, and not have houses out in the forests,” Bill Stewart, co-director of the Center for Forestry at the University of California, Berkeley told AFP.
A recent study found that one third of all US houses now are located in what researchers refer to as the wildland-urban interface, where houses and forest vegetation intermingle.
While Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism about global warming, a new report by his administration warned Friday that climate change will cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars annually by century’s end unless drastic action is taken to cut carbon emissions.


US police overseers fire 4 officers in 1994 fatal shooting of black teenager

Updated 36 min 8 sec ago
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US police overseers fire 4 officers in 1994 fatal shooting of black teenager

  • Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson in 2016 accused the officers of either giving or approving knowingly false statements
  • The Laquan McDonald case has roiled the criminal justice system in Chicago
CHICAGO: The Chicago Police Board on Thursday fired four police officers for allegedly covering up a white officer’s 2014 fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
The nine-member board found the officers exaggerated the threat posed by the 17-year-old McDonald to justify his shooting by Jason Van Dyke and voted unanimously for the dismissal of Sgt. Stephen Franko, and officers Janet Mondragon and Ricardo Viramontes. All but one voted to fire Daphne Sebastian because of violations of department rules. She was not found to have made false reports.
The Fraternal Order of Police slammed the police board for its decision, contending the officers did nothing wrong.
“It is obvious that this police board has out-served its usefulness,” said the organization’s vice president Patrick Murray.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson in 2016 accused the officers of either giving or approving knowingly false statements. None of the four were charged criminally, however they were stripped of police powers and assigned to desk duty as their case proceeded. The firings can be appealed through a lawsuit.
A Cook County judge acquitted three other officers in January of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct charges in the case.
Former Officer Joseph Walsh, Officer Thomas Gaffney and former Detective David March were charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy and official misconduct. Prosecutors said they lied to shield Van Dyke from prosecution. A judge rejected the contention that a video of McDonald’s death proved police officers staged a cover-up.
McDonald was allegedly high on PCP and carrying a small knife in 2014 when Van Dyke exited his squad car and almost immediately opened fire. Police video released in 2015 showed Van Dyke firing 16 bullets into McDonald, many after the teen had crumpled to the ground.
Franko was accused of approving false police reports that McDonald attempted to stab Van Dyke and another officer and had in fact injured Van Dyke.
Mondragon was accused of falsely reporting that she did not see the shooting of McDonald because she was shifting the gear of her squad car. She was also accused of incompetence for not inspecting the video equipment in her car to see if it was working and recording events.
Viramontes was accused of reporting that McDonald continued to move after he shot and that he tried to get up with the knife still in his hand. He held to his statement even when an investigator showed him a video of the shooting.
Sebastian was not found to have filed a false report. However, it was determined she gave misleading and inconsistent statements to investigators that McDonald turned toward Van Dyke and another officer with a knife in a motion toward them.
Jurors convicted Van Dyke of murder in October. He’s serving a more than six-year prison term.
Illinois’ Supreme Court denied a bid by the state’s attorney general and a special prosecutor to resentence Van Dyke. The prosecutors expressed the belief the sentence was too lenient for the crime.
The McDonald case has roiled the criminal justice system in Chicago. The then police superintendent, Gerry McCarty, was fired by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the then top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, was ousted by voters. Many believe Emanuel decided against running for a third term because of the case. It also led to a US Justice Department investigation that found a “pervasive cover-up culture” and prompted plans for far-reaching police reforms.