A patient in California’s Orange County was Saturday confirmed as the third person on US soil infected with the new deadly virus that originated in China, health officials said.
The infected person was a traveler from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the outbreak, the Orange County Health Care Agency said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the patient had tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus, it said.
The individual was in isolation in a local hospital and was in good condition.
“There is no evidence that person-to-person transmission has occurred in Orange County. The current risk of local transmission remains low,” the health care agency said.
There were no details given on how the person arrived in the United States or their identity.
The two other US cases involve a woman in Chicago who had traveled to Wuhan in late December before returning to the US on January 13, and a man in his thirties from Washington state who had also traveled to the Chinese city recently, the CDC said.
The previously unknown virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Hundreds of California firefighters on Tuesday battled a wind-driven brush fire that grew out of control overnight near Santa Barbara, threatening thousands of homes and prompting evacuation orders.
The so-called “Cave Fire” that started on Monday in Los Padres National Forest, grew to nearly 4,300 acres (1,740 hectares) overnight as it moved toward populated areas in the cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta and nearby communities about a two hours’ drive north of Los Angeles.
Some 600 firefighters were battling the blaze that prompted evacuation orders for about 2,300 homes, or nearly 5,500 people.
Fire officials said helicopters and fixed-wing planes were assisting the firefighters who faced steep, rugged terrain.
“The Cave Fire is burning under some of the toughest firefighting conditions anywhere in the world,” said Los Padres National Forest Fire Chief Jimmy Harris.
“We’ve experienced several offshore wind events at this point, and that has just dried the fuel bed out to the point where we’re seeing the fire behaviour we saw last night.”
He said the blaze was all the more challenging for firefighters as high winds were pushing the flames downhill and then back uphill.
Authorities said the fire, the cause of which was unknown, was zero per cent contained by midday Tuesday but they were hopeful that a storm set to arrive in the area later in the day would help extinguish the flames.
While the rain could bring much-needed relief for firefighters, officials warned that it may also prompt flash floods and debris flows.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said that about 4,000 people who were forced to evacuate would be allowed back into their homes Tuesday afternoon.
The blaze comes on the heels of a series of major fires that erupted in the state last month destroying homes and vineyards and forcing thousands of people to flee.
Apple said Monday it would commit $2.5 billion over the next two years to help address the shortage of affordable housing in California and reduce homelessness.
The move by Apple follows similar initiatives from Silicon Valley peers Google and Facebook, which each have pledged $1 billion for housing programs.
“Before the world knew the name Silicon Valley, and long before we carried technology in our pockets, Apple called this region home, and we feel a profound civic responsibility to ensure it remains a vibrant place where people can live, have a family and contribute to the community,” said Apple chief executive Tim Cook in a statement.
“Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride. When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution.”
Apple said data showed some 30,000 people left San Francisco between April and June of 2019 and that its efforts are geared to help “community members like teachers, firefighters, first responders and service workers” who cannot find affordable lodging.
Apple said it was working with California Governor Gavin Newsom on several programs to address housing and homelessness.
The iPhone maker said $1 billion will go to the state’s affordable housing fund that will extend credit to develop and build additional housing faster and at a lower cost.
Apple also said it would make available land it owns in San Jose worth some $300 million for homes.
The company is committing $200 million to support new lower-income housing in the Bay Area, including $150 for a public-private partnership.
It will also offer $50 million to support the efforts to address homelessness in Silicon Valley with the nonprofit group Destination: Home.
“We have worked closely with leading experts to put together a plan that confronts this challenge on all fronts, from the critical need to increase housing supply, to support for first-time homebuyers and young families, to essential philanthropy to assist those at greatest risk,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for environment and social initiatives.
US President Donald Trump threatened once again Sunday to withhold federal aid from California after its Democratic governor criticized his environmental policies.
Over the past two weeks, fires have ravaged nearly 100,000 acres (40,000 hectares) in the sprawling western state, where fighters on Sunday were battling the Maria Fire, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Taking a line of attack he first used last year when fires killed 86 people in northern California, Trump blamed Governor Gavin Newsom, saying he had done “a terrible job of forest management.”
“Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor,” he said on Twitter.
In an interview with the New York Times this week, Newsom pointed to Trump’s skeptical remarks about climate change and his roll-back of environmental protections.
“We’re waging war against the most destructive fires in our state’s history, and Trump is conducting a full-on assault against the antidote,” Newsom said.
The president has on several occasions openly questioned the scientific consensus that human activity causes changes in the climate, and notably the drought that has contributed to the California fires.
His administration decided on September 18 to revoke California’s authority to set its own standards for automobile pollution.
Newsom criticized the Republican government’s ambivalence in dealing with the disasters.
“Last night they approved seven additional emergency grants in record time,” Newsom told the Times. “But what’s so insidious, and what’s so remarkable is that he’s doing everything right to respond to these disasters and everything wrong to address what’s happening to cause them.”
Far from the political struggles, firefighters pressed their fight on Sunday against the Maria Fire, which is 30 percent contained, and the Kincade Fire north of San Francisco, now 74 percent contained.
Other fires, including some that threatened multi-million-dollar homes and iconic institutions in the Los Angeles area, have subsided, and residents who had evacuated are beginning to return home.
Firefighters battled new wildfires on Thursday in California including a fierce blaze in the city of San Bernardino that forced some residents to flee their homes overnight.
The Hillside fire broke out after midnight in San Bernardino, a city of more than 200,000 people some 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said.
Nearly 500 homes were ordered evacuated as the fire, fueled by wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour), raced into northern neighborhoods of California’s 17th-largest city.
More than 350 firefighters backed by water-dropping helicopters were attacking the inferno, which has consumed some 200 acres (80 hectares), the fire department said.
In northern California, firefighters reported making progress against the massive Kincade fire, which has ravaged the Sonoma County wine region.
And in southern California, an extreme “red flag” fire risk warning remained in place for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
More than 700 firefighters were battling a blaze on Thursday known as the Easy fire which had threatened the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday.
Helicopters dumped water throughout the day on the burning brush surrounding the hilltop presidential library in Simi Valley.
By evening, the fire had spared the building, though authorities warned the situation could quickly change because of the fierce winds that can spread embers for miles.
“We are still not through this,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told reporters. “We have another 24 hours of significant weather conditions, and a lot of threats.”
The Ventura County Fire Department said the Easy fire has burned 1,723 acres (697 hectares) and has been 10 percent contained as of Thursday morning.
It has forced the mandatory evacuation of some 30,000 people.
In Sonoma County, firefighters said the Kincade fire, which has destroyed nearly 300 homes and other properties, including several wineries, and burned more than 76,825 acres (31,000 hectares), has been 60 percent contained.
A mandatory evacuation order was lifted allowing tens of thousands of residents to return to their homes.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency because of the fires and the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, has been imposing rolling blackouts in the northern and central parts of the state in a bid to reduce the fire risk.
Other utilities in the southern part of the state have also shut off power to customers.
The wildfires come as California is still reeling from the aftermath of the most destructive wildfire in state history — the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 86 people last year.
Similar blazes in northern California, including in the Napa and Sonoma wine regions, killed 44 people in 2017 and destroyed thousands of structures.
Remarkably, there have been no fatalities linked to this year’s fires.
California’s governor declared a state-wide emergency on Sunday as a huge wind-fueled blaze forced evacuations and massive power blackouts, threatening tourist towns in the state’s famed Sonoma wine region.
The so-called Kincade Fire, north of San Francisco, spread to 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) overnight, with only 10 percent containment by early afternoon Sunday, state fire authorities said.
The blaze, the largest of more than a dozen wildfires burning throughout the state, has destroyed dozens of homes and wineries, including the iconic Soda Rock Winery built in 1869.
“We’ve seen the news. We are devastated,” the owners said in a Facebook message, adding that all staff at the winery were safe.
The Kincade Fire — the most devastating in California this year — ignited Wednesday and spread quickly thanks to powerful wind gusts up to 90 miles per hour (145 kilometers per hour).
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Sunday due to the “unprecedented” high winds that have led to the fires.
“We are deploying every resource available, and are coordinating with numerous agencies as we continue to respond to these fires,” Newsom said in a statement. “It is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders, and have the local and state resources they need as we fight these fires.”
An estimated 180,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders, including parts of Santa Rosa and a large swath of Sonoma County all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
“This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff’s Office can remember. Take care of each other,” the Sonoma County sheriff’s office tweeted.
Authorities said the area would remain under dangerous red flag conditions until Monday morning.
“Things will improve as we head into Monday and Tuesday but we need to be resilient as it looks like we have another north wind event, another dry event that is going to impact the region Tuesday night into Wednesday,” a spokesman for the National Weather Service told a news conference.
– Thousands battle blaze – A fire official warned that should the flames continue spreading west and jump over a major freeway — the 101 — that could prove even more catastrophic as that region hasn’t had any fires since the 1940s.
“The fuels in that area are extremely dense, they are extremely old and decadent and they are extremely dry,” he said, referring to combustible material, including shrubs and trees that feed a fire.
More than 3,000 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters were battling to control the blaze, which was not expected to be contained before November 7, fire officials said.
Several other fires have erupted throughout the state in the last week, fueled by high winds, bone-dry conditions and temperatures in the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit.
One major fire — the Tick Fire — in the southern part of the state, north of Los Angeles, also prompted evacuations and destroyed a number of homes near Santa Clarita.
But on Sunday, most evacuation orders were lifted as some 1,000 firefighters worked to contain the fire that burned more than 4,500 acres.
In a bid to reduce the risk of fire, California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., said it expected to turn off power to nearly one million customers across northern and central California.
“Winds of this magnitude pose a higher risk of damage and sparks on the electric system and rapid wildfire spread,” the company said in a statement. “The fire risk is even higher because vegetation on the ground has been dried out by recent wind events.”
PG&E has come under intense scrutiny after it emerged that one of its transmissions lines may have played a role in the Kincade Fire.
The same type of line was responsible for California’s deadliest wildfire ever — last year’s Camp Fire, which killed 86 people.
PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, has been blamed for several other fires in the state in recent years.
Newsom hit out at the utility earlier this week, saying he was infuriated that a state such as California — which boasts the fifth-largest economy in the world — had to endure blackouts.
Wildfires raged across California on Friday, destroying homes and forcing evacuations, as over 1,000 firefighters tackled flames in the southern part of the state alone.
Tens of thousands of residents near Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, fled their homes as the so-called Tick Fire scorched over 4,000 acres (1,618 hectares) and was only ten percent contained by Friday evening.
The blaze forced the shutdown of all schools in the area as well as a major freeway, creating a traffic nightmare for commuters.
New evacuations in the area were ordered early Friday as the fire that began the day before continued to spread, driven by so-called Santa Ana winds gusting up to 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour.
Some 1,325 firefighters backed by air tankers and helicopters were battling the flames that raced toward densely packed communities and threatened 10,000 structures, officials said.
Six homes were destroyed, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told a news conference, adding that the number was expected to rise.
At least four other fires have erupted in southern California this week, fueled by high temperatures in the 80s and 90s (above 30 Celsius) and bone dry conditions.
A red flag warning indicating ripe conditions for wildfire was in effect for more than 18 million people in the southern part of the state until Friday evening.
The National Weather Service warned that although wind speeds were set to decrease later Friday, they were expected to pick up again on Sunday and Monday in the southern part of the state.
“It looks like another Santa Ana is coming,” meteorologist Eric Boldt told AFP. “Right now, we’re looking at moderate strength winds (Sunday and Monday).”
Still, he added, the state remains “critically dry” with little humidity, creating an environment ripe for large and dangerous fire growth.
‘Story about greed’
A number of wildfires are also raging in the northern part of the state. The most serious — the Kincade Fire — broke out late Wednesday in the Sonoma wine region, also prompting evacuations.
The high risk of fires has led to pre-emptive power cuts to thousands of customers and prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in Sonoma and Los Angeles counties.
Newsom traveled to Sonoma on Friday to survey areas impacted by the Kincade Fire which has grown to around 23,700 acres and was only five percent contained as of Friday evening.
The blaze, which is burning in remote steep terrain, has destroyed nearly 50 structures and forced the evacuation of the entire community of Geyserville and nearby vineyards.
Newsom told reporters the area looked like a “war zone,” with homes and vehicles destroyed.
Residents said they barely had time to gather their belongings as the ferocious fire approached their homes.
“We looked up the hill and couldn’t believe what we saw,” ranch owner Dwight Monson, 68, told the Los Angeles Times, saying the fire moved 14 miles in five hours before destroying four homes and a barn on his property.
The state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., warned that millions of people in northern and central parts of the state could have their power cut off during the weekend given the high risk of fire.
The company has come under intense scrutiny after it reported Thursday that even though power to nearly 28,000 customers in Sonoma County had been shut down on Wednesday, some of the high-voltage transmission lines were still operating when the fire broke out.
The same type of equipment was responsible for the state’s deadliest wildfire ever — the Camp Fire in 2018 which killed 86 people.
PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, has been blamed for several other fires in the state in recent years.
Newsom hit out at the company on Friday, saying it had put “profits over the people of California for too long.”
The governor said it was “infuriating beyond words” that a state as innovative as California has to see these types of blackouts, adding that the frequency of fires could not only be blamed on climate change.
“It’s about dog eat dog capitalism meeting climate change,” he said, referring to PG&E. “It’s a story about greed and they need to be held accountable.”
Instense fires also erupted over the border in Mexico’s Baja California state, where local civil protection authorities said on Friday that three people had been killed and over 150 homes destroyed.
The director of Civil Protection, Antonio Rosquillas, explained that the municipality of Tecate, bordering the United States, was worst hit.
A fast-moving wildfire roared through California wine country early Thursday, prompting evacuations and threatening homes as authorities warned of the imminent danger of more fires across much of the state.
The Kincade fire in a rural area of Sonoma County kicked up Wednesday night, quickly growing from a blaze of a few hundred acres into an uncontained 10,000-acre (4,000-hectare) inferno, California fire and law enforcement officials said.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for the town of Geyserville after the fire crossed a highway and moved towards homes, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said.
“If you’re in Geyserville, leave now,” the sheriff’s office advised, citing an extraordinary threat to life and property.
Winds out of the north were driving the fire south as firefighters worked through the night to evacuate residents and protect structures.
“This fire is moving fast, please pay attention to evacuation orders,” state Senator Mike McGuire said on his Twitter account.
The fire — 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of San Francisco — came amid official warnings that much of northern California and parts of the south were under imminent threat of fires into Friday because of blustery, dry weather.
Power was cut to some 180,000 customers in the northern part of the state Thursday and similar preemptive shutoffs affected thousands of customers further south because of conditions that are ripe for wildfires.
Power companies warned that additional power cuts could be ordered to reduce the risk of accidental fires.
The strong winds in the north were expected to subside Friday but are forecast to pick up again on Sunday, the National Weather Service warned.
In southern California, several wildfires were burning in the Los Angeles area on Thursday, and there was at least one fire near Pendleton, in San Diego County.
A fire in San Bernardino County, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, prompted evacuation orders as it grew to about 100 acres.
The San Bernardino County Fire Department said the blaze had the potential to spread widely.
This week’s fires have erupted as the state is still recovering from deadly wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that killed more than 100 people.
The fires have been fueled by years of drought and dry vegetation as well as high winds.
California on Thursday launched the country’s first earthquake warning system in the hope that residents will be alerted within seconds of a possible impending disaster and can “drop, cover and hold on.”
The app, created by the University of California, Berkeley, and unveiled on the 30th anniversary of the deadly Loma Prieta quake, uses ground motion sensors located across the state to detect the start of earthquakes before humans can feel them.
“Nothing can replace families having a plan for earthquakes and other emergencies,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in unveiling the warning system.
“And we know the Big One might be around the corner. I encourage every Californian to download this app and ensure your family is earthquake ready.”
The cellphone app called MyShake can provide potentially life-saving seconds of warning before the ground starts to shake from a nearby quake — enough time to drop, cover and hold on to help prevent injury, Newsom’s office said in a statement.
“Warnings delivered through the system are based on a computerized program called ShakeAlert operated by the US Geological Survey that analyzes data from seismic networks in California, calculates preliminary magnitudes, and then estimates which areas will feel shaking,” the statement said.
The new app was put to the test this week before its official launch when two earthquakes struck in the San Francisco area and central California, measuring 4.5 and 4.7 respectively.
Residents who had the app were alerted within an average of 2.1 seconds in the first case and 1.6 seconds in the latter.
Newsom said that the system was not perfect but would improve over time.
Officials warned that in rare circumstances, residents may receive a ShakeAlert when there is no quake taking place.
Seismologists say that California is long overdue for a huge earthquake, dubbed the Big One, as the state straddles one of the country’s most dangerous fault lines — the San Andreas fault.
Rolling blackouts affecting up to 800,000 customers began Wednesday in parts of California as a utility company switched off power because of hot, windy weather that raises the risk of wildfires.
Pacific Gas & Electric, which announced the three-phase deliberate power outage, is working to prevent a repeat of a catastrophe last November in which power lines it owned were determined to have sparked California’s deadliest wildfire ever.
In that inferno, 85 people died and a town called Paradise was virtually destroyed. The company has been found responsible for dozens of other wildfires in recent years, too.
This is peak wildfire season in California.
PG&E said the severe weather incident prompting the precautions this time — hot, dry conditions and winds gusting at up to 70 mph (110 kph) — is expected to last through mid-day Thursday in parts of northern and central California.
The outages could last up to a week in some places. Some 800,000 customers actually means millions of people will be affected.
The city of San Francisco is not affected by the intentional shutoff but much of the surrounding Bay Area could go dark including parts of Silicon Valley.
The first part of the so-called Public Safety Power Shutoff began at midnight Tuesday into Wednesday in northern California in a broad swath of land that includes the Napa Valley wine country. It will affect around 513,000 customers there, the utility company said.
The rest of the San Francisco Bay area was to start losing power in waves around noon local time. A possible third third phase could take place later in the day farther south.
Schools and universities cancelled classes for Wednesday and people stocked up on gasoline, water, batteries and other basics, news reports said.
PG&E said it expected to start turning the power back on on Thursday but can only do this after inspecting its equipment for damage and this could take days in some areas.