Briefs: Wildfires without precedent

This photo taken from the home of Russ Casler in Salem, Ore., shows the smoke-darkened sky well before sunset at around 5 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Strong winds and high temperatures continued to fuel catastrophic fires in many parts of Oregon on Wednesday, forcing thousands of people to flee from their homes and making for poor air quality throughout the West. Huge wildfires also continued to grow in neighboring Washington state. (Russ Casler via AP)

The Associated Press

News headlines for September 10

The Associated Press

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Numerous wildfires burned in Oregon's forested valleys and along the coast, destroying hundreds of homes and causing mass evacuations. Farther north, flames devoured buildings and huge tracts of land in Washington state.

Officials said the number of simultaneous fires and perhaps the damage caused was unprecedented. Several deaths were reported, including a 1-year-old boy in Washington state. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said communities have been "substantially destroyed" and warned there could be numerous fatalities.

Because of its cool, wet climate, the Pacific Northwest rarely experiences such intense fire activity. But climate change driven by human-caused greenhouse gases is expected to keep warming the region, with most models predicting drier summers, according to the College of the Environment at the University of Washington.

Brown said Oregon could see the greatest loss of life and property from wildfires in state history. The small towns of Phoenix and Talent in southern Oregon were heavily damaged. Another fire leveled most of the small farming town of Malden in eastern Washington — burning down the fire station, post office, City Hall and library.

In Washington state, a fire burned more than 480,000 acres of forest, brush and shrubland, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday after a 30-minute tour of the fire area in Sumner, east of Tacoma. 

California fire that killed 3 threatens thousands of homes

OROVILLE, Calif. — A Northern California wildfire threatened thousands of homes Thursday after winds whipped it into a monster that incinerated houses in a small mountain community and killed at least three people.

Several other people have been critically burned and hundreds, if not thousands, of homes and other buildings are believed to have been damaged or destroyed by the North Complex fire northeast of San Francisco, authorities said.

Some 20,000 people were under evacuation orders or warnings in Plumas, Yuba and Butte counties.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the fire — which had been burning for weeks in forestland and was 50 percent contained — exploded to six times its size as winds gusting to 45 mph drove a path of destruction through mountainous terrain and parched foothills.

The winds subsided Wednesday but the fire was only 24 percent contained and the danger remained.

No COVID-19 deaths on Navajo Nation for 2nd time in 3 days

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation health officials on Wednesday reported 12 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, but no deaths for the second time in three days.

The latest numbers increase the total number of people infected to 9,915 with the known death toll remaining at 527.

Tribal health officials reported one new coronavirus case Monday and no additional deaths for the first time since March.

They said 98,068 people have been tested for COVID-19 as of Wednesday and 7,167 have recovered.

Much of the Navajo Nation has been closed since March as the coronavirus swept through the vast reservation that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. 

Tribal officials are extending partial weekend lockdowns and daily curfews through September to help control the spread of the coronavirus.

The majority of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 recover. For some people it causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. 

But for others who contract the virus, especially those who are older or have underlying health conditions, it can cause more severe illness and death. 

51 bison relocated from North Rim of Grand Canyon

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. — Dozens of bison have been relocated from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to Native American lands in Kansas, Nebraska Oklahoma and South Dakota.

A roundup begun in late August and completed earlier this month led to the transfer of 51 bison to the InterTribal Buffalo Council, Grand Canyon National Park officials said.

The bison were then successfully transported to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, the Santee Sioux Tribe in Nebraska and the Modoc Nation in Oklahoma, park officials said.

The relocations were part of an effort to reduce the size of the herd that roams the Kaibab Plateau and follow a 2019 pilot program in which 31 bison were relocated to the Quapaw Tribe in Oklahoma.

NPS biologists estimate that the North Rim bison herd has grown from approximately 100 bison, brought to the House Rock Wildlife Area in the early 1900s, to between 400 to 600 bison.

Details of future herd reductions are still being discussed, officials said.

Scarcity of key material squeezes medical mask manufacturing

FRESNO, Calif. — Rachel Spray is still grieving the loss of her fellow nurse who died after being exposed to the novel coronavirus at Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center. Now, as she stands in front of the gleaming glass and concrete hospital, she says she "dreads going in there" and fears she'll be next.

That's because like those in many U.S. hospitals, management is rationing supplies, she says, keeping medical-grade masks under lock and key.

White House officials say U.S. hospitals have all the medical supplies needed to battle the deadly virus, but frontline health care workers, hospital officials and even the Food and Drug Administration say shortages persist. Critical shortfalls of medical N95 respirators — commonly referred to as N95 masks — and other protective gear started in March, when the pandemic hit New York. Pressure on the medical supply chain continues today, and in "many ways things have only gotten worse," the American Medical Association's president, Dr. Susan Bailey, said in a recent statement.

"N95s are still in a shortage," said Mike Schiller, the American Hospital Association's senior director for supply chains. "It's certainly not anywhere near pre-COVID levels."

Early in the pandemic the White House failed to heed stark warnings — specifically about N95s — from high-level administration officials. The Associated Press has found the administration took months to sign contracts with companies that make the crucial component inside these masks: meltblown textile. Meltblowing is the manufacturing process that turns plastic into the dense mesh that makes N95 masks effective at blocking vanishingly small particles, including viruses. 

Little left of Greece's Moria refugee camp after 2nd fire

ATHENS, Greece  — Little remained of Greece's notoriously overcrowded Moria refugee camp Thursday after a second fire overnight destroyed nearly everything that had been spared in the original Tuesday night blaze, leaving thousands more people in need of emergency housing.

Early morning saw former residents of the country's largest camp, which had been under coronavirus lockdown, return to the area to pick through the charred remains of their belongings, salvaging what they could. Many had spent the night sleeping in the fields, by the side of the road or in a small graveyard.

New, small fires also sprang up in the remains of tents set up outside the camp, fanned by strong winds Thursday morning.

Authorities say the original fire in the camp on the island of Lesbos was deliberately started Tuesday evening by residents angered by quarantine measures imposed to contain a COVID-19 outbreak after 35 people tested positive. 

That blaze had left about 3,500 of the more than 12,500 people living in and around Moria homeless, and authorities flew in tents and were providing a ferry and two navy ships as emergency temporary housing. 

Book: Kim Jong Un told Trump about killing his uncle

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's comments about the threat from the novel coronavirus attracted widespread attention after excerpts from journalist Bob Woodward's book "Rage" were released. The excerpts also provide new details about the president's thoughts on North Korea's Kim Jong Un, racial unrest and a mysterious new weapon that Trump claims other world powers don't know about.

Some of the other topics covered in the book, which was based on 18 interviews that Woodward conducted with Trump between December and July and with others (excerpts from the book were reported by The Washington Post, where Woodward is an editor, and CNN): 

NORTH KOREA

Woodward wrote that Trump said he was impressed with Kim when he first met the North Korean leader in Singapore in 2018 and that Kim was "far beyond smart." Trump also said that Kim "tells me everything" and even gave the president a graphic account of how Kim had his own uncle killed. 

As he engaged in nuclear arms talks with Kim, Trump dismissed intelligence officials' assessments that North Korea would never give up its nuclear weapons. Trump told Woodward that the CIA has "no idea" how to handle Pyongyang. 

Official claims pressure to alter Homeland Security intel

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Department of Homeland Security official said in a whistleblower complaint that he was pressured by more senior officials to suppress facts in intelligence reports that President Donald Trump might find objectionable, including information about Russian interference in the election and the rising threat posed by white supremacists.

The official, Brian Murphy, alleged that senior DHS officials also pressed him to alter reports so they would reflect administration policy goals and that he was demoted for refusing to go along with the changes and for filing confidential internal complaints about the conduct.

Murphy, a former FBI agent and Marine Corps veteran, was demoted in August from his post as principal deputy under secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. He is seeking to be reinstated in a complaint filed with the DHS Office of Inspector General. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on Wednesday released the complaint, which he said contained "grave and disturbing" allegations. He said Murphy has been asked to give a deposition to Congress as part of an investigation into intelligence collection by DHS related to its response to protests in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere.

"We will get to the bottom of this, expose any and all misconduct or corruption to the American people, and put a stop to the politicization of intelligence," the California Democrat said.

Comments

Outside

FEATURED
COMMUNITY