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FEMA says it’ll pay all of the costs associated with the debris removal and emergency protective measures for the LNU Lightning Complex fires. Normally the agency covers 75% related to declared disasters, but Congressman Mike Thompson’s office says for this disaster it’ll be at 100%. The congressman reportedly asked for more federal assistance for the complex of fires which started on Aug. 14th and ended up blackening 363,220 acres in Colusa, Lake, Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties. 3 people were also killed by the fire and several civilians and firefighters were injured. The fires destroyed almost 1,500 structures. Thompson says it’s much needed relief for communities that have been struggling already because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A man from Willits who had been missing has apparently been killed and the Sheriff’s Dept. has arrested his son. As we reported earlier this week the family of 69 year old James Whetstone had been searching for him after he disappeared while the rest of the family slept in Willits. His daughter had said it was out of character for him to walk off without personal items, like his phone and wallet. Now the Sheriff’s office reports 29 year old James Whetstone was arrested for the death of his father whose body was found on his property. Deputies visited the family property yesterday and say they found a fresh grave concealed with debris, so they got a search warrant and excavated the area, finding James Whetstone’s body. They connected the death to the younger James who was booked into jail for suspicion of murder. An autopsy is pending.

Sonoma County is reportedly developing a plan to help get the economy stimulated and help more disadvantaged communities to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase says they’ve come up with ideas, like intervention in certain demographics and preventing the spread in communities where there have been disproportionately higher case rates. The county one of ten in California’s 58 counties remaining in the most restrictive reopening tier. Mendocino County is another in the purple tier, like the old watch list. The former health officer in Mendo had said they keep a close eye on Sonoma County. The board of supervisors there along with county health officials and others are working on more outreach and testing, financial incentives to get people to stay home from work if they’re sick and vouchers to stay in hotels to isolate while they’re contagious.

The state dept. of health has new guidelines out for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos celebrations in the midst of the pandemic. The acting state Public Health Officer, Dr. Erica Pan says it’s still a “severe risk” so there are necessary precautions to keep communities safe. The state discouraging traditional trick-or-treating and encouraging families plan safer alternatives like a candy scavenger hunt at home, online activities such as pumpkin carving and costume contests, and car-based tours of Halloween displays. Same for Día de los Muertos, with indoor alters outside instead for safe distancing, virtual altars online and short cemetery visits limited to people within the same household.

PG&E has done it again… Public Safety Power Shutoffs during fire weather. This time it’s affecting almost 53,000 customers in 24 counties, including Lake, but not in Mendocino. There are 82 customers in Lake County, five are medical baseline customers. The power down includes customers in Cobb, Lower Lake and Middletown. The company says they sent notifications to customers that there could be a PSPS on Monday afternoon. Then by late yesterday afternoon, they decided to go ahead with the power downs. 33,000 customers in Butte, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Yolo and Yuba counties were without power and 19,000 more across 12 more counties went off later last night. Today by 4 pm, another 700 customers in Amador, Calaveras, Humboldt and Trinity counties. But they expect to announce an all clear once the weather clears out tomorrow, and after PG&E patrol and inspects its de-energized lines.

A man from Northern Calif. has been arrested for arson for fires in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The US Attorney’s office reports arresting Eric Smith of Redding for fires set in June and July in Shasta County. They say he used a “virtually untraceable cigarette lighter or pen torch”. The fires were all quickly surrounded and didn’t cause major damage or injuries but did shut down a highway. The man arrested after the U.S. Forest Service and state fire investigators used hidden motion-detection cameras and identified a car in the area, planting a tracking device on it.

The latest report from the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team on areas safe to get to for scientists on the August Complex Wildfire. The team in the Shasta-Trinity, Six Rivers and Mendocino national forests with others from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Weather Service, US Geological Survey, Trinity, Tehama and Mendocino Counties along with other federal, tribal, state and local agencies. They were examining soil for any possible impacts to the burned watersheds for possible post-fire flooding, sediment flows, falling trees, and rockslides. It’s the first step in the post-fire work. A report will be drawn up with recommendations for stabilization measures and actions.

The number of people dying from COVID-19 in Calif continues to drop. There were almost 400 deaths in the last week of data, the least amount in one week since the end of May. Calif. is one of a few states holding steady, with fewer new cases now than two weeks before. But the state is recording between 3,000 and 3,600 new confirmed cases a day and has been for about a month. But we had a bit of a spike Tuesday with 4,345 new cases, it was down to 2,666 yesterday. The state is nearing 856,000 total cases, and almost 17,000 deaths. There have been 14 deaths and 641 cases in Lake County and 21 deaths and 1,063 cases in Mendocino County.

A project to put in some trees and new sidewalks in Willits has been tabled for now. The City Council voted last week to hold off due a few factors, one wildfires, two the pavers the city wanted for the sidewalks were on backorder, and finally the construction work would overlap with downtown holiday shopping. The contractor on the project couldn’t get on the project right away because of staff and equipment being used to help fight the August Complex so they needed to postpone. City Staff say they still could have completed the work before Thanksgiving, as projected though, but the pavers would still be 10-12 weeks backordered.

The Gov. has announced new recommendations for protests and how police in the state should respond. On Tuesday a list with more than 30 recommendations, or ideas was put out but the largest police unions in the state said they were unrealistic. The governor convened a police training panel so standards would be updated so they prioritize protecting free speech rights and look directly into finding, and detaining instigators and hate groups who turn peaceful protests into violence.

Volunteers are needed by the American Red Cross to help victims of recent wildfires. The organization says they need shelter workers, people to deliver meals, deliver supplies, and work in health services. They’ve had more than 1,000 volunteers this fire season already who have worked in person and remotely due to the ongoing pandemic. The Red Cross says they need support as evacuations are lifted. You can register online at redcross.org/volunteer or donate too at redcross.org/donate.

Progress on the August Complex as the West Zone is 100% contained. The zone  burned nearly 141,000 acres. CAL FIRE’s Mendocino Unit is doing the mop up on this section and will stay in the area to make sure there are no ongoing hazards, checking for heat pockets and removing dead or fallen trees. Firefighters on the complex working to widen containment lines in the Middle Fork of the Eel River as the weather conditions change. Yesterday there were water drops from a helicopter on hot spots. There’s still a red flag warning in effect until tomorrow morning for the entire complex.  It has burned 1,029,110 acres and is 77% contained. 

The Fort Bragg City Council considering allowing commercial cannabis cultivation on inland industrial land like Pudding Creek. A discussion on the matter Tuesday night with the council agreeing to hire a consultant to prepare an ordinance on the issue. Suggestions including a one percent tax on revenues were discussed, but they ultimately decided there should be no special fees on growers. Growers would pay regular city fees including for building permits with no extra fees. Apparently some cannabis cultivators had asked for new places to grow and they’d set up business immediately. A call for proposals for consultants would come next, but there was no final decision on when to move forward with that.

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