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Northern California Wildfire Threatens More Than 2,000 Homes

By Adolfo Flores, Los Angeles Times

The King fire in Northern California has grown to about 27,930 acres and now threatens 2,007 homes in forest communities east of Sacramento, officials reported.

In addition to the homes, the blaze also threatens 1,505 other structures as firefighters struggle against strengthening winds, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Winds continued to drive the fire east, west, and north over mountain and ridges and through deep canyon troughs. Spotting — or embers lighting fires ahead of the flames — has also helped fuel the blaze, said Laurence Crabtree, a U.S. Forest Service supervisor for the Eldorado National Forest.

The King fire, which erupted Sunday, is 5 percent contained, fire officials said. About 3,300 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is burning in steep terrain in the South Fork of the American River Canyon and Silver Creek Canyon, north of the community of Pollock Pines.

On Wednesday afternoon, the fire made a significant run to the northwest, forcing more evacuations.

“It’s been growing all day,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Extremely dry conditions have really allowed this fire to grow and over the next couple of days we’re expecting the wind to pick up, so that’s going to challenge us significantly.”

The blaze has become one of the largest and most unruly of 10 major wildfires burning across California, mainly in the central and northern parts of the state.

The Black fire north of Lake Mendocino was contained Wednesday afternoon, Berlant said. It had burned 403 acres.

Firefighters battling the Boles fire made some headway against the 375-acre fire, with 60 percent of the blaze contained by Wednesday evening, up from 30 percent earlier in the day.

The fire erupted late Monday and quickly ravaged the logging town of Weed, just west of Mt. Shasta, damaging or destroying more than 150 structures, including such community institutions as churches, a library, and the town’s sawmill.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the cause of the blaze. Anyone with information is asked to call (800) 468-4408.

In Madera County, the 320-acre Courtney fire was 70% contained Wednesday evening. That fire had destroyed 30 homes, 19 outbuildings, and 13 vehicles.

All evacuation orders for the area were lifted about 6 p.m., but fire crews remained at the scene to watch for new spot fires and hot spots, the Forest Service said.

The Happy Camp Complex fire in Klamath National Forest remains the largest wildfire in California at 125,788 acres. That fire is 68 percent contained.

That blaze is made up of 15 fires, all of which were sparked by lightning Aug. 12.

AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan

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Obama Issues Disaster Declaration For Napa Quake

By Adolfo Flores, Los Angeles Times

President Barack Obama declared California a major disaster site Thursday, unlocking federal funds for recovery efforts in the areas affected by the 6.0-magnitude earthquake near Napa last month.

The Aug. 24 quake resulted in one fatality and more than 280 injuries, devastated more than 100 wineries, and damaged at least 1,000 buildings, many of which were historic properties.

The declaration comes after an official request from Gov. Jerry Brown last week.

According to Brown, the California Department of Insurance estimated that fewer than 5 percent of businesses and homeowners in Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties have earthquake insurance.

Federal aid would cover areas affected by an earthquake from Aug. 24 to Sept. 7, the White House said in a statement.

Even though the earthquake occurred on Aug. 24, the region sustained additional damage from aftershocks, said Veronica Verde, spokeswoman with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The funds are available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments, as well as certain private nonprofit organizations, to help pay for emergency work and to repair or replace facilities damaged by the earthquake.

Federal funding is also available to supplement hazard mitigation measures statewide.

FEMA said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas. More counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are completed.

AFP Photo/Josh Edelson

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Emigdio Vasquez, Prominent Chicano Artist In Southern California, Dies At 75

By Adolfo Flores, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Emigdio Vasquez, a renowned Chicano muralist and painter in Southern California’s Orange County whose pieces captured the reality and grittiness of everyday life, has died. He was 75.

Vasquez died Saturday of pneumonia at an assisted living facility in Newport Beach, his daughter Rosemary Vasquez-Tuthill said. He also had Alzheimer’s disease.

Known as Orange County’s Godfather of Chicano Art, Vasquez created more than 400 paintings and 22 murals throughout the county. The “Legacy of Cesar Chavez” at Santa Ana College is one of his most well-known works.

“My dad liked the gritty subjects, old people’s skins, and the grittiness of the city,” his daughter said.

In an artist statement posted on the University of California, Santa Barbara’s library website, Vasquez wrote that he considered his art to be part of the working-class experience that surrounded his life.

“This environment holds inspiring visions of human warmth and cultural heritage,” Vasquez wrote. “I want to convey to the viewer the intense reality which people experience. Art must be more than aesthetic or decoration. Art creates an environment which enlarges humanity.”

Vasquez was born May 25, 1939, in the mining town of Jerome, Ariz. The family moved to the city of Orange, Calif., in the early 1940s when the mine closed, Vasquez-Tuthill said. As a child, Vasquez would sit and quietly draw, a characteristic he carried into adulthood.

“He was a very quiet observer,” Vasquez-Tuthill said. “Unless he was around his friends.”

Vasquez-Tuthill’s earliest memory of her father was of him cooking menudo or leaning over a pressboard, a paintbrush in hand.

“In those days he couldn’t afford canvases,” she said. “He was always painting.”

She once asked Vasquez what else he would have done if he wasn’t an artist. He couldn’t answer her, she said.

He earned an associate’s degree from Santa Ana College before transferring to California State University, Fullerton, where he received his bachelor’s degree and a master’s in fine arts.

For his master’s thesis, Vasquez painted an 85-by-64-foot mural in Orange as a tribute to the Chicano working class. A miner was modeled after his father, and other relatives and friends were the inspiration for laborers.

The Orange County district attorney’s office associated the mural, “Tribute to the Chicano Working Class,” with gang culture when it sought an injunction against a local crew. It upset Vasquez that prosecutors associated it with gangs, Vasquez-Tuthill said.

“Toward the end, a lot of gangs were hanging out there, but he did not like the fact that his murals were thought of as gang-related,” Vasquez-Tuthill said.

Mike McGee, director of the Begovich Gallery at Cal State Fullerton, went to college with Vasquez and admired his ability to capture his subjects’ facial expressions and characteristics.

“He had such an emphasis for people,” McGee said. “Emigdio was very soft-spoken, but his paintings spoke volumes.”

Heavily influenced by Mexican muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera, Vasquez felt a responsibility to document his community for posterity, McGee said.

Vasquez “wanted to make sure the people who lived in the community had a certain kind of dignity in the way they were portrayed,” McGee said. “And that there would be documentation and evidence of their lives and existence.”

In addition to Tuthill-Vasquez, Vasquez is survived by his five other children, Adolph Vasquez, Dora Asher, Emigdio “Higgy” Vasquez Jr., Sarah Acosta, Vera Perez; and his siblings Gilberto Vasquez, Javier Vasquez, Santiago Vasquez, and Licinia Blue.

Photo via WikiCommons

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‘Prom Draft’ Could Lead To Ethics Training For Newport Beach Students

By Adolfo Flores, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Following the news that boys at a Newport Beach, Calif., high school had set up an NFL-style draft to pick prom dates, students districtwide could get ethics training if one school board member has her way.

Newport-Mesa Unified Trustee Katrina Foley said the so-called “prom draft” — operated by juniors and seniors at affluent Corona del Mar High School — shows a lack of responsibility with wealth.

The order in which male students could ask girls to the prom was set by the draft and at least one boy reportedly paid $140 to get an earlier pick.

“They probably believe it’s not offensive or objectionable and that’s part of the problem,” Foley said. “A lot of this stuff comes back to wealth and being responsible with that wealth.”

She said the school board should institute ethics training for students districtwide. Nearly a dozen students were expelled earlier this year after a tutor some of them used changed their grades.

Jane Garland, the former head disciplinarian for the district who resigned earlier this year, said Corona del Mar lives up to the worst of Newport Beach’s stereotypes.

“There’s definitely issues at that school with certain students feeling entitled,” Garland told the Los Angeles Times. “The culture in Newport Beach is ridiculous and CDM personifies it.”

But a person who identified themselves as part of the draft committee defended the practice to The Times in a statement.

“The 2014 Corona del Mar High School Senior Prom Draft was conducted in an effort to avoid the in-fighting and controversy that often follows the selection of dates, while simultaneously promoting sportsmanship and camaraderie among the male members of the CdM Senior Class,” the statement read. “At no point in time were any girls ‘ranked’ according to any metric, nor was there a specific list of girls for the draft. The draft was not created or organized to objectify or discriminate against any of the students of Corona del Mar High School, and we feel that it is unfortunate that some have chosen to label us in a negative fashion.

Our draft was planned and organized with only the best intentions in mind.”

Students who were part of this year’s draft said the group rented a venue, dressed up in sports coats and then put themselves on the clock — two minutes each — to select a date for the school prom.

The draft attracted both seniors and juniors, about 40 male students in all.

The draft has been criticized by school administrators, and the principal at Corona del Mar High School urged parents to talk to their children about “the seriousness of this type of activity.”

The intent of the draft, which has been described alternately as “creepy” and “sexist” on Twitter, was to avoid the infighting and controversy that often follows the selection of prom dates, one student said.

“It’s about camaraderie,” he said. “It’s a fun thing to do with the guys.”

Though the draft happened last week, most of the girls haven’t been officially invited yet, the senior said.

Photo via Flickr