California's fire season has exploded with a vengeance. Right now, Ground Zero is Clear Lake. Over the weekend, the governor declared a state of emergency in California, the locale of numerous fires. Meanwhile, the drought isn't helping matters.
The Bee's Stela Kuhrt and Peter Hecht tell the tale: "Fueled by withering dry brush left by a historic drought, a wildfire near Clear Lake ballooned into a ravenous firestorm Sunday, more than doubling in size and forcing authorities to order 12,000 people out of their homes."
"The Rocky fire, which began Wednesday afternoon east of the Lake County town of Lower Lake, had destroyed 24 residences and 26 outbuildings as of late Sunday afternoon. The fire created its own weather system, burning fiercely to the east and fanning out in multiple directions through grassland, oak and timber..."
"The blaze, one of two dozen wildfires burning across California, has threatened 6,156 homes and forced numerous mandatory evacuation orders and advisory requests for residents east of Highway 53.
The fire at Clear Lake, driven by a deadly mix of high winds, heat and tinder-dry foliage scorched 20,000 acres in five hours.
From the LAT's Kurt Chirbas, Paige St. John and Joel Rubin: "Dubbed the Rocky fire, it started Wednesday near the shore of Clear Lake, about 110 miles northwest of Sacramento. Since then, a growing number of firefighters had worked in steep, rough terrain to get a handle on the blaze as it continued to grow and threaten rural communities."
"Then came Saturday."
"With temperatures climbing into the triple digits and humidity near zero, the fire exploded, charring 20,000 acres in one five-hour stretch that a fire official called "historic, unprecedented." Throughout the night, when wildfires typically lay down in the relative cool, the Rocky fire continued to rage."
Also from Lower Lake: Guy Kovner in the Press-Democrat: "Wayne Fischer tried to fight the Rocky fire — and the fire won."
Meanwhile, back at the Capitol, California's political watchdog seems to be taking a nap lately, and one wonders why. Surely, there is no lack of things to bite.
The Sacramento Bee's Dan Morain takes a look: "In recent months, the Fair Political Practices Commission hasn’t been barking much. Its backlog has grown and enforcement actions and fines have fallen. Maybe the lull is temporary, an aberration that is the result of a changing of the guard..."
"Under Remke’s predecessors, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission became perhaps the most important watchdog agency in state government, and one of the most aggressive agencies of its type in the nation."
"The commission smacked what former FPPC chairwoman Ann Ravel called the billionaire Koch brothers network for laundering $15 million in campaign money in 2012. The fine: $1 million."
Joe Dunn, a former lawmaker who ran a highly visible investigation of California's electricity market during the market meltdown nearly 15 years ago, may be a candidate for Congress.
From the OC Register's Martin Wisckol: "Former state Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, may be the next to join the race to replace Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the Orange Democrat now running for U.S. Senate...."
"Dunn was elected to the Senate in 1998, upsetting Republican incumbent Rob Hurtt. He was reelected in 2002 and ran unsuccessfully for state controller in 2006. He then served as CEO of the California Medical Association until 2010, when he was appointed executive director of the State Bar of California."
"Dunn was fired in November 2014 and filed a lawsuit against the bar, with both sides claiming malfeasance by the other. The bar and Dunn are now in arbitration, according to the Sacramento Business Journal. In June, the state released an audit critical of the bar for inadequate discipline of members and raised issues with the purchase of a $77 million building. Dunn was leading the bar for most of the period covered by the audit."
In the world of high-technology, an article of faith is that the industry needs foreign workers because U.S. schools aren't turning out enough of them. True?
From the LAT's Michael Hiltzik: "The mismatch between Qualcomm's plea to import more high-tech workers and its efforts to downsize its existing payroll hints at the phoniness of the high-tech sector's persistent claim of a "shortage" of U.S. graduates in the "STEM" disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics."
"As millions of students prepare this summer to begin their university studies, they're being pressed to choose STEM fields, if only to keep America in the lead among its global rivals. "In the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind," President Obama stated in 2010. He labeled the crisis "our generation's Sputnik moment."
"The high-tech industry contends that U.S. universities simply aren't producing enough graduates to meet demand, leading to a "skills gap" that must be filled from overseas if the U.S. is to maintain its global dominance. Low unemployment rates among computer workers imply that "demand has outpaced supply,"Jonathan Rothwell of the Brookings Institution told me by email. "Companies struggle to fill job vacancies for skilled programmers and other STEM fields."
And from our "Bad Timing" file comes word of the guy who had to interrupt his marriage proposal in order to foil a robbery.
"Anderson was at Salsarita's Mexican restaurant in Hickory, North Carolina, with Deanna Deal and her son Brighton."
"As Anderson worked up the courage to ask Deal's hand in marriage, a would-be thief entered the restaurant and demanded money."
"The suspect, later identified as Graham Wilson Kiziah, was given an undisclosed amount of money and attempted to leave the building. Police said he hit an employee who was trying to lock the restaurant door, Fox Carolina reports.
"At that point, Anderson decided to postpone the proposal in order to grab the suspect by his neck."