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Willits police have charged a woman from Lake County with setting 3 fires on Christmas Eve morning. Officers say 47-year-old Michelle Gray started two fires in trash cans at the Sherwood Valley Casino, then set another fire at the Howard Memorial Hospital. She was arrested and booked into the county jail on three charges of arson. Police think Gray might be behind other recent arson cases, so more charges against her are possible. The Willits PD says cooperation from the public helped them find Gray.

A group encouraging participation in the 2020 Census wants to make sure hard to reach people are counted. The Lake County Complete Count Committee is looking for so-called “trusted messengers” who can influence others to fill out census forms or answer questions from census-takers. The committee is holding a workshop on January 10th from 9:00 to 10:00 at the Lower Lake Community Hall for those who want to get involved. The Complete Count Committee says an accurate census will ensure Lake County gets the help it is entitled and also ensure fairly drawn electoral districts.

Figures show the Camp Fire took a toll on the population of Butte County. The State Department of Finance says Butte County lost more than 10,000 residents from July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019. The department says that 4.5 percent decrease was led by people who moved away to somewhere else in the US. That decline was the highest of any county in the state. The Camp Fire on November 8th, 2018 killed 85 people and destroyed more than 6 percent of Butte County’s housing supply.

Christmas is over but you can still donate to the Lake County Holiday Fund. Several community groups are behind that fund, which has raised more than $5,600 so far this holiday season. You can donate at any branch of either West America Bank or Umpqua Bank. The fund provides food boxes to those in need.

You can start the New Year with a walk in the park as Clear Lake State Park takes part in a nationwide event to get people outside on the first day of the year. The guided hike along Old Kelsey Creek Trail is part of the 7th annual “America’s State Parks First Day Hikes” program. The trail is about a mile long and volunteer guides will keep a slow pace so hikers can enjoy the flora and fauna along the way. The hike starts at 9:00 AM in the visitor’s parking lot and is free. It will be canceled if it rains.

January 1st brings the start of new rules restricting who can be hired as an independent contractor in the state. The law is meant to address the impact of the so-called gig economy, but opponents say it will only hurt small businesses who hire independent contractors rather than adding to the payroll. Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft are pushing for g a referendum that would exempt them from the new law and there is a lawsuit challenging the restrictions as well.

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