Deserts

Fire crews discuss funding as Apple Fire is expected to cost $40 million

The Apple fire was very active over night, burning through the San Gorgonio Wilderness area in the San Bernadino National Forest. After charring 27,000 acres, fire officials say they’re making good progress. “We’re advancing significantly over the last 24 hours. We’re concentrating on an area that is still pretty active, pretty hot. There’s always a possibility when you have wind, especially if you have a north wind, the fire could burn back down into the Oak Glen area,” said Capt. Herrera with Calfire. Oak Glen remains under a mandatory evacuation, and fire crews are carrying out a number of tactics to prevent further progression. “Concentration is still working on the eastern front very heavily, trying to get the upper hand on it, and trying to get our aircraft to put that retardant on that and slow it down,” said Capt. Herrera. The current cost of the Apple Fire is $10 million, but fire officials say that could grow up to $40 million by the time the flames are extinguished. On Wednesday Congressman Ruiz met at the Incident Command Post in Beaumont with officials for a…

Public health officer issues statement on school waiver process

Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser issued a memorandum to officials of public and private elementary schools in Riverside County Wednesday. The memo addresses that while the state provided guidance for the school waiver process earlier this week, Riverside County does not currently meet the state’s threshold to begin accepting waivers. The memo provides information, guidance and the process for leaders at local elementary schools regarding the waiver process available for transitional-kindergarten (TK) through sixth-grade education in counties on the statewide COVID-19 monitoring list. Dr. Kaiser’s memo also advises that the county Public Health Department may choose a phased-in approach with a selection of schools per supervisorial district in order to evaluate risk and probability of outbreak, rather than opening all applicants at once. This, he wrote, will be based on the number of applications received and in which regions. This information is from the County of Riverside

Youth sports may resume in Riverside County with social distancing

State health officials issued new guidelines for youth sports that provides for some limited participation. The state guidelines, released on Aug. 3, are a change from the previous rules which did not allow for participation in youth sports. Under the new guidelines, youth sports can take place only when two criteria are met: (1) Physical distancing of at least six (6) feet between participants. (2) Stable cohort, such as a class or team when the participants remain the same, that limits the risk of transmission. Sports that cannot be played with enough distancing and cohorting are not permitted. Competitions, including games and tournaments, are not allowed. “The new guidelines provide for some participation for youth sports, which is something we know parents, coaches and young athletes have been waiting for, but the No. 1 priority remains the safety of those involved,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer. “These guidelines should not be looked at as a return to pre-pandemic participation.” For sports that cannot be played with sufficient distancing or cohorting, only physical conditioning and training is permitted and only where physical distancing can be…

Indio City Manager Mark Scott Announces Retirement

INDIO (CNS) – Indio City Manager Mark Scott will retire from the city’s top post effective Aug. 15, the city announced Wednesday. Scott, 70, has served in the role for the last three years, and has accumulated more than 40 years of city management experience throughout his career. “From the day I arrived, I have been very proud to be part of this talented and caring City of Indio team,” Scott said. Mayor Glenn Miller said the city will immediately begin looking for Scott’s replacement. “Mark has done an excellent job managing implementation of the (City) Council’s strategic plans,” Miller said. “We have tremendous momentum in Indio and our goal is to continue that momentum. This may prove to be a tough time to recruit a successor, but we will begin the search immediately. We look forward to the search for the next city manager to provide continued leadership.”

Riverside County Students to Receive $10M to Assist with Online Learning

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved, 5-0, $10 million to help with access to online learning materials. The board voted Tuesday to close the “digital divide” by providing computers, tablets and mobile hotspot devices for students in grades K-12. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, all 23 school districts in the county will begin the school year with distance learning. “Computers and Internet access have increasingly become necessities and even more clearly now, as school instruction moves online,” said Supervisor Perez. “This investment aims to abolish the digital divide and ensure that students don’t have setbacks to their education due to lack of devices and Internet access.” The $10 million dollar funds stem from monies received from the federal government and will go to Riverside County’s Office of Education “All For One” campaign. “The All For One campaign was launched to directly benefit the neediest students and families in Riverside County by providing consistent and reliable access to technology and the Internet to ensure continuity of education through distance learning,” said Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White. “As more than 430,000…

Riverside County names new fire chief

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to appoint Bill Weiser as the new Riverside County Fire Chief. The California Department of Forestry (CALFIRE) appointed Chief Weiser as the CALFIRE/Riverside Unit Chief effective Monday, August 3, 2020. “We are very pleased to welcome Bill Weiser as our new Riverside County Fire Chief,” said Riverside County Board Chair V. Manuel Perez. “Chief Weiser brings great experience in the fire service to lead the Riverside County Fire Department in this crucial role.” Please welcome, newly appointed CAL FIRE Riverside Unit Chief/ Riverside County Fire Chief Bill Weiser! pic.twitter.com/AxE3tFfOiX — CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department (@CALFIRERRU) August 5, 2020 Chief Weiser has more than 39 years of experience in the fire service, including more than 34 years in Riverside County. Over the years, Chief Weiser has filled several key positions in the CALFIRE/Riverside Unit, including as the training captain at Ben Clark Training Center and battalion chief for the Perris Battalion. His most recent position was division chief overseeing operations in Bautista Camp, Hemet Ryan Air Base, the San Jacinto and Mountain Battalions as well as the…

Third Suspect Arrested in Alleged Gang-Related Murder in Indio Due in Court

INDIO (CNS) – A convicted felon accused, with two others, in a gang- related shooting that left a man dead in Indio is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon on murder and other charges . Robert “Bubba” Ruiz, 30, of Indio was arrested last Thursday on a felony warrant stemming from a criminal complaint filed last month by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. He’s being held at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta without bail. Ruiz is one of three people charged in the shooting death of Jason Diaz, who was found on the sidewalk in front of a home in the 85-100 block of Armata Street on June 24 with a knife in his hand, according to a declaration in support of arrest warrant filed by Indio police Detective Justino Perez. Diaz, whose age and place of residence were not released, was pronounced dead at the scene. According to the declaration, police responded about 10:30 p.m. to a shots-fired call. A witness told officers she saw two people “batter” the victim before hearing a gunshot. She said she then heard the man calling…

Nurses to Rally in Palm Springs Calling For More COVID-19 Protection

PALM SPRINGS (CNS) – As COVID-19 patients continue to fill hospitals around the country, registered nurses in Palm Springs are planning a rally Wednesday evening in front of a local hospital to demand to be outfitted with additional personal protective equipment, along with the passage of a stimulus bill backed by Democrats in Congress. National Nurses United, a labor union of registered nurses with nearly 185,000 members nationwide, is planning a national day of protest on Wednesday, which includes a stop on a street corner in front of Desert Regional Medical Center starting at 6 p.m. “COVID has exposed everything that has been wrong with our system,” said Zenei Cortez, a registered nurse and co-president of the union. “The old way was a huge failure. Now is the time to re-envision a world based on nurses’ values of caring, compassion, and community.” Union members will also rally for the passage of the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or the HEROES Act, which passed the House of Representatives, but has not yet been voted on in the Senate. Provisions of the…

Democratic Donor Ed Buck Charged with Four Additional Felonies

A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Edward Buck with four additional felonies, including that he allegedly enticed victims – including a man who died at his West Hollywood apartment after he administered drugs to him – to travel interstate to engage in prostitution. Buck, 65, was arrested in September 2019 after being charged in United States District Court with providing methamphetamine to a man who died after receiving the drug intravenously. Since that time, federal authorities have continued to investigate Buck for additional crimes. The four additional counts charged Tuesday – bringing the total number of charges in this case to nine counts – include one count alleging that Buck knowingly enticed 26-year-old Gemmel Moore to travel to the Los Angeles area to engage in prostitution. Buck allegedly provided methamphetamine to Moore, who overdosed on the drug and died on July 27, 2017. Buck also is charged with another count of enticing another man to travel with the intent of engaging in prostitution. The superseding indictment also charges Buck with one count of knowingly and intentionally distributing methamphetamine, and one count of…

Coachella Valley ‘Dreamers’ concerned about new changes for DACA

Just two months ago, local DACA recipients were cheering as the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s reason for ending the program.  The Supreme Court said the administration had to restore protections and benefits for DREAMERS and begin accepting new applications. However, it’s not what happened. “These people are now afraid and frustrated,” Claudio Koren, an immigration lawyer. Now the administration announced a new review for the program, limiting renewals to one year-periods and rejecting first-time applications.   “There could have potentially been an additional six-thousand people who could have qualified to apply for DACA,” said Koren. Local recipients who count on the program for work permits and other benefits say it’s another attack from the Trump administration. Montserrat Gomez, who came to the United States with her parents from Yucatan, Mexico said “The thing about DACA is that they do provide a social security number and a work permit so with that i’m able to apply for fafsa, i’m able to go to college.” The Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino is helping with the renewal process and say concerned phone calls have been non-stop. …

Huge explosion rocks Beirut, injuring thousands across Lebanese capital

A massive explosion ripped through central Beirut on Tuesday, killing dozens of people, injuring thousands and blowing out windows in buildings across the city. The blast near Beirut’s port sent up a huge mushroom cloud-shaped shockwave, flipping cars and damaging distant buildings. It was felt as far as Cyprus, hundreds of miles away, and registered as a 3.3 magnitude earthquake in the Lebanese capital. At least 78 people were killed in the blast, Health Minister Hamad Hasan said, according to Reuters. He said at least 4,000 people have been wounded. “There are many people missing until now,” Hasan said, according to Reuters. “People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity. We are facing a real catastrophe and need time to assess the extent of damages.” A picture shows the scene of an explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020. – A large explosion rocked the Lebanese capital Beirut on Tuesday, an AFP correspondent said. The blast, which rattled entire buildings and broke glass, was felt in several parts of the…

Board Approves Imposition of Fire Mitigation Fee Assessments

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a Riverside County Fire Department request to attach fire mitigation charges to the tax bills of nearly 450 property owners, who officials say have not paid the cost of abating weeds and other potential fire hazards around their parcels. During a public hearing on whether the owners of parcels in communities countywide should pay a total $199,198 assessed under the county’s Fire Hazard Reduction Program, only one person spoke. Greg Buffington, who appeared telephonically because no in-person meetings are being permitted in the board chamber to mitigate coronavirus exposure risks, said he was representing his 83-year-old mother. He said she had attempted to resolve the fire department’s weed abatement order within her allotted limit, but wasn’t given the opportunity. He asked for reconsideration. A fire department official promised that he would look into the matter. The total amount due on the 2019 calendar year delinquent list is roughly 130% more than in 2018. Fire officials said that of the 7,423 property owners who received notices of violation, only 445 on the delinquent list were unresponsive. Supervisor…

Pioneertown residents worry about livestock with Apple Fire approaching

As the Apple Fire heads further northeast, some San Bernardino County communities are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. On Tuesday, voluntary evacuations were underway in Forest Falls, Rimrock and Pioneertown. One Pioneertown resident, Christine, said a cloud of smoke loomed over her property across the street from Pappy and Harriets. She snapped several photos on Saturday to capture the ominous moment. “I thought, this is bad,” she said. All through the weekend, Christine said she’s been on high alert. She owns 5 horses, one donkey and several dogs and has had to evacuate them in the past. “This is the third time, this isn’t the first time,” she said. “You kind of have to decide when is the best time to move on.” Pioneertown was hit hard by the Sawtooth fire in 2006, a fast moving blaze that ripped through the area. “In 2006, I think we had nine minutes to get out,” Christine said. That memory is keeping everyone in town on edge when it comes to the Apple Fire. That’s why 15 engines were sent to Pioneertown on Tuesday…

Over 300 inmates join fire crews from all over California at the Apple Fire

The Apple fire burns for the fifth day in a row, requiring over 2000 personnel from the state of California. “Any large fire of this magnitude is beyond the capability of any size fire department. No matter how big you are, you have to call in other departments to help you because remember, even though this fire is going on, in riverside county we still respond to over 500 calls a day,” said Captain Herrera with Calfire. The first responders repor to tthe incident command post between shifts to rest and refuel as the fire chars over 26 thousand acres and 12 structures. “This is where all the brain power happens to fight the fire and where the management team comes in. This is where the firefighters get fed, where they sleep, and how they get paid,” said Kate Kramer with the San Bernardino National Forest. Captain Herrera with Calfire says it’s necessary for firefighters to have a designated place to cool off, especially over summer. “Our firefighters are holding up as best they can. It’s very demanding and challenging for them to be out…

Palm Springs Unified School District Ready for the New Online School Year

It’s the big day before the first day of school for the Palm Springs Unified School District. Six-year-old twins Allison and Ximena Mendez and their mom Martha are in the multipurpose room picking up their supplies for the 2020/21 school year at Cathedral City Elementary School. Class will be all online this year.  “I’m excited,” say the twins in unison and when asked why they say it’s because they’re going to be in first grade and they like first grade. But when asked what it will be like to go to school online, Ximena stays quiet and Allison responds with a simple, “I don’t know.” Truth from the six-year-old. Many of us don’t know what an entire school year of full time online learning will be like for children and parents. Their mom Martha has a big job this school year. Parents essentially are being asked to co teach. She’s got the twins plus two other children.  Martha says sitting still for long periods of time being focused may prove difficult for the twins, the youngest of her children.  Still she says she’s up for…

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