California Wildfires Burn 1M Acres and Counting

California Wildfires Burn 1M Acres and Counting

More than 1.25 million acres of wildfire in Northern and Central California have ignited a man versus nature fiasco as local firefighters are spread thin and left without adequate resources. Cal Fire, the California agency responsible for fighting wildfires, said 650 wildfires of all sizes have caused the extensive damage the state since Aug. 15, with more than 1,400 buildings destroyed.  The fires are collectively larger than the state of Delaware.  

The wildfires follow a statewide heatwave that reached triple-digit temperatures and an unprecedented surge in lightning strikes – more than 13,000 lightning strikes, with 233 strikes alone in the past 24 hours. 

The fires are exacerbated by dry summer air and strong winds, both of which California is currently experiencing. These factors have contributed to a ‘perfect storm’ for the natural disaster, as fire departments struggle to combat the rapidly expanding blaze, with the brunt of the damage in the top half of the state. 

Fire departments are usually aided by inmate firefighters during peak fire season, but thousands of prisoners have been released due to overcrowding concerns regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state will hire more than 800 additional firefighters to fill the void.

Newsom declared a state of emergency last week, asking for additional fire engine resources from over half a dozen states across the country, as well as Canada. Arizona has contributed 10 fire engines, Oregon has contributed 25, and Texas and New Mexico have contributed five each, said the governor in a press briefing on Friday. 

A helicopter drops water on the Soledad Fire in California on July 5, 2020. (Tyler Kelleher/Zenger)

 

Two fire department vehicles sit outside the Lake Fire on August 14, 2020. (Tyler Kelleher/Zenger)

Nearly 50,000 people were instructed to evacuate their homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains and east of San Jose. To minimize exposure to Covid-19, evacuees have been encouraged to stay with family and friends rather than pack into confined indoor shelters. Authorities prioritized shelters for people who have no other place to stay, and have been enforcing pandemic protocol, such as masks, throughout the emergency. 

The largest fire, named the SCU Lightning Complex, has burned 363,772 acres of land east of San Jose, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. This fire is at 15% containment as of Tuesday. 

The wine country northeast of San Francisco, including Napa and Sonoma counties, is the second largest area at risk, with 356,326 acres burned at 27% containment. Tens of thousands of structures remain at risk. The Global Supertanker, a firefighting airplane that can hold 19,600 gallons of water, has been deployed to the area.

The CZU Lightning Complex fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains has devoured 78,869 acres of land and is at 17% containment.

Kim-Flud Markey, a mother of four and longtime resident of the Santa Cruz Mountains, evacuated her home with her family last week in accordance with local fire department instruction. They thought they had reached safety upon reaching a hotel, but were instructed to evacuate further the next day to escape the drastically worsening fire.

“The fire department simply does not have the resources to contain it,” Flud-Markey told Zenger News. “They are doing everything they can, but low visibility from the smoke has restricted air support.” The Flud-Markeys evacuated all of their animals from the house, including horses, chickens, goats and an 85-pound turkey. “People have been so kind as to open their fenced property to house our animals while we are sheltering. They are all safe. Our two dogs have stayed with us.” said Flud-Markey. 

The wildfires come as California residents expect rolling electricity blackouts to conserve energy during the heatwave. The three biggest energy providers in California, Pacific Gas & Electric, So Cal Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, collectively had a megawatt shortage of over 4,000 on Monday, enough to power for roughly 3 million residences. 

A helicopter drops water on the Lake Fire in California on August 12, 2020. (Tyler Kelleher/Zenger)

 

A helicopter drops water on the Tujunga Fire outside Los Angeles on July 31, 2020. (Tyler Kelleher/Zenger)

An estimated 10 percent of the state’s wildfires are triggered by electric power lines every year, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. However, the California Independent System Operator maintains that rolling blackouts are unrelated to the wildfires, and serve to stabilize California’s immense power grid instead.

Cal Fire continues encouraging residents to be prepared for wildfires.

The National Interagency Fire Center said 93 very large wildfires have burned 1,832,101 acres nationally as of Aug. 25.  Outside of California, Oregon and Arizona reported the most fires of a significant size.

(Edited by Bryan Wilkes and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Uber and Lyft said Friday that they will keep operating in California while courts decide if their army of freelance drivers qualify for employee status.

The two popular rideshare companies had threatened to pull their drivers off roads statewide after a San Francisco County Superior Court judge ordered them on August 10 to reclassify their drivers as employees. A state appeals court temporarily halted that ruling on Thursday.

Turning independent drivers into employees would require the companies to provide them with benefits such as paid leave and employer-provided health insurance. Such ‘gig economy’ drivers are contractors with no employee status.

Uber and Lyft claimed it was impossible for them to comply with the San Francisco judge’s orderm which required them to make the change within 10 days.

The two San Francisco-based companies cheered Thursday’s temporary reprieve. “Rideshare is ON,” Lyft said late Thursday on its website. Uber also welcomed the ruling.

The appeals court ruled that the companies can keep operating with drivers classified as independent contractors while the case winds its way through the judicial system. Oral arguments will be presented October 13, and Lyft and Uber could lose, prompting another round of brinksmanship.

Voters could rescue them in the end: A measure on California’s election ballots in November would exempt them from the gig-worker law. Proposition 22 would also overrule any pending litigation.

An Uber self driving car prototype is tested in San Francisco, California on October 7, 2016. (Dllu/Wikimedia on CC 4.0 License)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco favor forcing the companies to guarantee benefits to their contractors. A law requiring that shift took effect on January 1.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, who wrote the new law, tweeted: “Uber & Lyft can quit crying now…Shame on them with their scare tactics!” Gonzalez’s main source of support for the law came from labor unions, which see it as a launching pad to organize freelance drivers.

The mayors of San Diego and San Jose, two of the three largest cities in California, had said Wednesday that forcing Uber and Lyft to pull the plug in America’s most populous state would cause “irreparable harm upon hundreds of thousands of residents.”

“[W]e have serious concerns that this Friday, most of California’s nearly one million gig workers will lose their rideshare income when Uber and Lyft shut down their operations in the Golden State,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “This sudden disappearance of jobs and transportation options will only deepen the economic pain felt in our communities during this historic pandemic and recession.”

Faulconer is a Republican. Liccardo is a Democrat.

Uber and Lyft insist they are technology platforms, not transportation companies, placing them outside the reach of Gonzalez’s law. They have warned the alternative to shutting down if they lose in the California Cout of Appeal would be drastically cutting back services and dramatically hiking prices.

(Edited by Matthew Cooper and David Martosko.)



The post Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge appeared first on Zenger News.

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge

Uber and Lyft said Friday that they will keep operating in California while courts decide if their army of freelance drivers qualify for employee status.

The two popular rideshare companies had threatened to pull their drivers off roads statewide after a San Francisco County Superior Court judge ordered them on August 10 to reclassify their drivers as employees. A state appeals court temporarily halted that ruling on Thursday.

Turning independent drivers into employees would require the companies to provide them with benefits such as paid leave and employer-provided health insurance. Such ‘gig economy’ drivers are contractors with no employee status.

Uber and Lyft claimed it was impossible for them to comply with the San Francisco judge’s orderm which required them to make the change within 10 days.

The two San Francisco-based companies cheered Thursday’s temporary reprieve. “Rideshare is ON,” Lyft said late Thursday on its website. Uber also welcomed the ruling.

The appeals court ruled that the companies can keep operating with drivers classified as independent contractors while the case winds its way through the judicial system. Oral arguments will be presented October 13, and Lyft and Uber could lose, prompting another round of brinksmanship.

Voters could rescue them in the end: A measure on California’s election ballots in November would exempt them from the gig-worker law. Proposition 22 would also overrule any pending litigation.

An Uber self driving car prototype is tested in San Francisco, California on October 7, 2016. (Dllu/Wikimedia on CC 4.0 License)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco favor forcing the companies to guarantee benefits to their contractors. A law requiring that shift took effect on January 1.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, who wrote the new law, tweeted: “Uber & Lyft can quit crying now…Shame on them with their scare tactics!” Gonzalez’s main source of support for the law came from labor unions, which see it as a launching pad to organize freelance drivers.

The mayors of San Diego and San Jose, two of the three largest cities in California, had said Wednesday that forcing Uber and Lyft to pull the plug in America’s most populous state would cause “irreparable harm upon hundreds of thousands of residents.”

“[W]e have serious concerns that this Friday, most of California’s nearly one million gig workers will lose their rideshare income when Uber and Lyft shut down their operations in the Golden State,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “This sudden disappearance of jobs and transportation options will only deepen the economic pain felt in our communities during this historic pandemic and recession.”

Faulconer is a Republican. Liccardo is a Democrat.

Uber and Lyft insist they are technology platforms, not transportation companies, placing them outside the reach of Gonzalez’s law. They have warned the alternative to shutting down if they lose in the California Cout of Appeal would be drastically cutting back services and dramatically hiking prices.

(Edited by Matthew Cooper and David Martosko.)



The post Wheel See You in Court: Uber and Lyft Appeal California Judge appeared first on Zenger News.

Lyft and Uber Get Reprieve in Court Fight that Could Drive them out of California

Lyft and Uber Get Reprieve in Court Fight that Could Drive them out of California

Uber and Lyft said Friday that they will keep operating in California while courts decide if their army of freelance drivers qualify for employee status.

The two popular rideshare companies had threatened to pull their drivers off roads statewide after a San Francisco County Superior Court judge ordered them on August 10 to reclassify their drivers as employees. A state appeals court temporarily halted that ruling on Thursday.

Turning independent drivers into employees would require the companies to provide them with benefits such as paid leave and employer-provided health insurance. Such ‘gig economy’ drivers are contractors with no employee status.

Uber and Lyft claimed it was impossible for them to comply with the San Francisco judge’s orderm which required them to make the change within 10 days.

The two San Francisco-based companies cheered Thursday’s temporary reprieve. “Rideshare is ON,” Lyft said late Thursday on its website. Uber also welcomed the ruling.

The appeals court ruled that the companies can keep operating with drivers classified as independent contractors while the case winds its way through the judicial system. Oral arguments will be presented October 13, and Lyft and Uber could lose, prompting another round of brinksmanship.

Voters could rescue them in the end: A measure on California’s election ballots in November would exempt them from the gig-worker law. Proposition 22 would also overrule any pending litigation.

An Uber self driving car prototype is tested in San Francisco, California on October 7, 2016. (Dllu/Wikimedia on CC 4.0 License)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco favor forcing the companies to guarantee benefits to their contractors. A law requiring that shift took effect on January 1.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, who wrote the new law, tweeted: “Uber & Lyft can quit crying now…Shame on them with their scare tactics!” Gonzalez’s main source of support for the law came from labor unions, which see it as a launching pad to organize freelance drivers.

The mayors of San Diego and San Jose, two of the three largest cities in California, had said Wednesday that forcing Uber and Lyft to pull the plug in America’s most populous state would cause “irreparable harm upon hundreds of thousands of residents.”

“[W]e have serious concerns that this Friday, most of California’s nearly one million gig workers will lose their rideshare income when Uber and Lyft shut down their operations in the Golden State,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “This sudden disappearance of jobs and transportation options will only deepen the economic pain felt in our communities during this historic pandemic and recession.”

Faulconer is a Republican. Liccardo is a Democrat.

Uber and Lyft insist they are technology platforms, not transportation companies, placing them outside the reach of Gonzalez’s law. They have warned the alternative to shutting down if they lose in the California Cout of Appeal would be drastically cutting back services and dramatically hiking prices.

(Edited by Matthew Cooper and David Martosko.)



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