In California: Fires prompt evacuations in OC; PG&E cuts off power to 1M people

Winston Gieseke, USA TODAY
·6 min read

It's a windy Monday here in Palm Springs and around the state. I'm Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun, and here's what's happening in California today.

In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

Wind-whipped wildfires prompt evacuations in Orange County

A man leaves his home during a mandatory fire evacuation as smoke from the Silverado Fire fills the air in Irvine, Calif.
A man leaves his home during a mandatory fire evacuation as smoke from the Silverado Fire fills the air in Irvine, Calif.

Two fast-growing wildfires prompted the evacuation of 92,000 homes in Orange County. About 20,000 of those homes are in Irvine. More than 500 firefighters worked to battle the flames that ravaged more than 7,000 acres after breaking out in the Silverado Canyon area.

When firefighters arrived on the scene of the Silverado Fire about 6:45 a.m., it was limited to 10 acres. But winds blowing at a steady 20-30 mph, with gusts up to 70 mph had caused the fire to jump Highway 241 — which had served as a natural fire break — and was threatening neighborhoods in the area.

Two members of a fire crew were badly burned fighting the fire, said officials from the Orange County Fire Authority. The two, ages 26 and 32, suffered second- and third-degree burns on at least half of their bodies.

Worse yet, another fire broke out in the afternoon in Chino Hills, above Yorba Linda neighborhoods, prompting evacuations of 70,000 homes and setting off a scramble at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library to take precautions. Click here to view current air quality conditions by region.

But it wasn't only in Southern California. Hundreds of miles away in the northern part of the state, "extreme" fire weather kept the region in its grip. Four new wildfires burned more than 300 acres Sunday afternoon in Shasta County, but on Monday, firefighters appeared to be gaining the upper hand.

Elsewhere on the fire front ...

PG&E shuts off power to 1 million people

Pacific Gas and Electric Company left thousands of homes without power Monday as a precaution after officials issued warnings for what could be the strongest winds in California this year. PG&E said in a statement that as many as 361,000 customers across 36 counties and 17 tribal communities were affected in Northern and central California.

PG&E officials said the planned outages are a safety measure, as power lines downed by heavy winds often spark and start fires, especially in dry areas. They also acknowledged the burden this presented on residents, especially those working or learning from home.

Winds reached 50 mph early Monday at lower elevations across the San Francisco Bay Area, where tens of thousands had their electricity turned off. And north of the city, a Mount St. Helena weather station recorded a hurricane-force gust of 89 mph late Sunday and sustained winds of 76 mph.

Officials extended a red flag extreme fire danger warning through 5 p.m. Tuesday for the region's eastern and northern mountainous areas as a second round of strong gusts is predicted to sweep through the same areas Monday night, according to forecasters.

Restaurants sue California over liquor licenses, fees paid despite shutdowns

FILE - In this July 18, 2020 file photo, patrons eat at a table set up on a sidewalk in Burbank, Calif. California's financially battered restaurants filed government claims Monday to recover more than $100 million in fees for liquor and health permits and tourism charges that they say were assessed even though their businesses were shuttered or only partially operating under long-running coronavirus orders. Few industries have been hit as hard during the pandemic as restaurants. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
FILE - In this July 18, 2020 file photo, patrons eat at a table set up on a sidewalk in Burbank, Calif. California's financially battered restaurants filed government claims Monday to recover more than $100 million in fees for liquor and health permits and tourism charges that they say were assessed even though their businesses were shuttered or only partially operating under long-running coronavirus orders. Few industries have been hit as hard during the pandemic as restaurants. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Restaurants around the country have suffered during the coronavirus pandemic; here in California, the state's 60,000 eateries have been forcibly closed, then reopened and closed again, then reopened with restrictions, which vary among the state's 58 counties. As a result, thousands of restaurants have closed permanently while others have endured massive losses in income.

On Monday, restaurants across California filed claims against the state as well as Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego and Monterey counties in an attempt to recover the more than $100 million in fees for liquor licenses, health permits and tourism charges they say were assessed even though their businesses were shuttered or only partially operating under long-running coronavirus orders. The move is supported by the California Restaurant Association.

Walter Schild, owner of the 33 Taps Hollywood gastropub in L.A., said he pays about $7,000 per year in government fees ranging from his liquor license to a levy on his valet service. His business has been closed for all but about a month since mid-March and he's had no income. Still, he said he's been unable to get the fees reduced or delayed and is now being charged with late fees of up to 50% for failing to pay.

“The irony is, [restaurateurs] did what they were told and the very entity that told them to close is keeping these fees,” said attorney Brian Kabateck, who is representing restaurants that filed claims against the state and against several counties.

Californians to reconsider affirmative action

Sen. Steve Bradford, D-Gardena, urges lawmakers to approve a measure to place a proposed Constitutional amendment on the November ballot to overturn the ban on state affirmative action programs, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Wednesday, June 24, 2020.
Sen. Steve Bradford, D-Gardena, urges lawmakers to approve a measure to place a proposed Constitutional amendment on the November ballot to overturn the ban on state affirmative action programs, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

On Election Day, Californians will tackle what is being called "one of the most dangerous propositions on the ballot," one that could reverse a 24-year-old law banning affirmative action.

While Prop. 16, one of a dozen propositions before voters this election season, would seem like an easy "yes" in California — especially given the attention racism has received this year throughout the country — polls suggest that reversing the ban remains a tough sell.

If passed, Prop. 16 would repeal Prop. 209, which put into law that there may be no consideration for race, sex or ethnicity in public employment, contracting or education.

Passions for Prop. 16 run high on both sides. Opponents say that affirmative action inherently creates a stigma for those who benefit from it and creates a disincentive to succeed on one’s own merits. “You shouldn’t use racism to lessen racism,” said retired attorney Betty Chu, honorary co-chair of the No on 16 campaign. “This is the most dangerous proposition on the ballot. Diversity is something we all need, but it shouldn’t be achieved by pitting one race against another.”

Michele Siqueiros, a Yes on 16 committee member and president of The Campaign for College Opportunity, feels differently. “We have lost an entire generation of Latino doctors and African American lawyers because of the ban on affirmation action," she said. "We are on the right side of history. This is a different California than the one that passed Prop. 209.”

Earthquake reported near Napa, magnitude 3.6

California insurance regulations now allow condo-unit owners the opportunity to purchase earthquake insurance.
California insurance regulations now allow condo-unit owners the opportunity to purchase earthquake insurance.

Did you feel it? A 3.6 magnitude quake shook the area 14 miles from Napa and 16 miles from Santa Rosa Monday at 6:38 a.m., reports the Los Angeles Times.

In the past 10 days, two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater have been reported in the area.

Earthquakes can happen anytime. Are you prepared? Do you have an emergency preparedness kit?

That's all for now. Be sure to stay safe and remain indoors if you can.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: KTLA5, Los Angeles Times.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Orange County California wildfires prompt evacuation; PG&E shuts off power