Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Emmett Berg

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency on Sunday in Northern California areas hit by a fast-expanding wildfire that injured four firefighters and forced thousands of people to evacuate small towns near wine country.

The firefighters were hospitalized with second-degree burns after they were dropped off by helicopter to build containment lines against the so-called Valley Fire, which broke out on Saturday in Lake County, north of San Francisco and then spread quickly in hot weather and drought conditions.

A school, blocks of homes and an apartment building, and businesses were destroyed in the small town of Middletown, according to local media. Fire officials were not able to confirm the number of structures burned.

The Valley Fire, with 1,000 personnel assigned to fight it, is the latest in a string of large and destructive wildfires that have ripped through drought-stricken brush and forest on the West Coast over the summer.

Firefighters were battling 13 active fires in California including the 40,000-acre Valley Fire, which was zero percent contained and the 65,215-acre Butte Fire, which was 20 percent contained on Sunday.

MANDATORY EVACUATION

An evacuee from Kelseyville – a town that is partly in the path of the Valley Fire – told Reuters that Middletown and a nearby community called Cobb were “gone” and that there were explosions at a gas station. Fire officials said they could not confirm that information.

Chad Greenwood, a 44-year-old travel agent, said he grabbed his two dogs and one suitcase with important documents after sheriff’s officers gave him and other residents just an hour to leave.

“Where I live the smoke smell was really bad. It was so dark it looked like it was 8:30 at night, at 7:00 o’clock in the morning,” Greenwood said by phone.

The UC Davis Medical Center, where the injured firefighters were airlifted, declined to comment on the condition of the firefighters.

Governor Brown previously declared an emergency in rural Amador and Calaveras counties, where the Butte Fire began on Wednesday and has destroyed 86 homes and also forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Some 3,500 more people were evacuated on Friday from the path of the flames from a larger blaze, dubbed the Rough Fire, which is burning in Kings Canyon National Park in central California.

(Additional reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas, and Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Writing by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Editing by Greg Mahlich and William Hardy)

Photo: A firefighter lights a backfire while battling the Butte fire near San Andreas, California September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Noah Berger

Actor as Donald Trump in Russia Today video ad

Screenshot from RT's 'Trump is here to make RT Great Again'

Russia Today, the network known in this country as RT, has produced a new "deep fake" video that portrays Donald Trump in post-presidential mode as an anchor for the Kremlin outlet. Using snippets of Trump's own voice and an actor in an outlandish blond wig, the ad suggests broadly that the US president is indeed a wholly owned puppet of Vladimir Putin– as he has so often given us reason to suspect.

"They're very nice. I make a lot of money with them," says the actor in Trump's own voice. "They pay me millions and hundreds of millions."

But when American journalists described the video as "disturbing," RT retorted that their aim wasn't to mock Trump, but his critics and every American who objects to the Russian manipulations that helped bring him to power.

As an ad for RT the video is amusing, but the network's description of it is just another lie. Putin's propagandists are again trolling Trump and America, as they've done many times over the past few years –- and this should be taken as a warning of what they're doing as Election Day approaches.

The Lincoln Project aptly observed that the Russians "said the quiet part out loud" this time, (Which is a bad habit they share with Trump.)