60,000 in Southern California to evacuate after blaze grows

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A fast-moving wildfire forced evacuations for 60,000 people in Southern California on Monday as powerful winds across the state prompted power to be cut to hundreds of thousands to prevent utility equipment from sparking new blazes.

The smoky fire exploded in size to 2,000 acres within a few hours of breaking out shortly after dawn in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. Strong gusts pushed flames along brushy ridges in Silverado Canyon toward homes in the city of Irvine, home to about 280,000 people.

Kelsey Brewer and her three roommates decided to leave their townhouse before the evacuation order came in. The question was where to go in the pandemic. They decided on the home of her girlfriend’s mother, who has ample space and lives alone.

“We literally talked about it this morning,” Brewer said, adding that she feels lucky to have a safe place to go. “We can only imagine how screwed everyone else feels. There’s nowhere you can go to feel safe.”

The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known.

More than 300,000 power customers — estimated at about 1 million people — were in the dark in the northern part of the state as officials issued warnings for what could be the strongest winds in California this year. About 5,000 customers lost power Monday in Southern California.

Firefighting crews that had been at the ready overnight quickly contained small blazes that broke out Sunday in Northern California’s Sonoma and Shasta counties. The causes were under investigation.

North of San Francisco, a Mount St. Helena weather station recorded a hurricane-force gust of 89 mph (143 kph) late Sunday and sustained winds of 76 mph (122 kph). Some Sierra Nevada peaks registered gusts well over 100 mph (161 mph).

Legislators consider ways to increase Idaho air travel

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Lawmakers in Idaho have considered ways to increase air travel in the state as flights have been reduced or eliminated in recent years, stunting economic growth.

Horizon Air stopped direct flights from the Lewiston airport to Boise two years ago and discontinued flights to Boise from Pocatello in 2006 and from Idaho Falls in 2010, Boise State Public Radio reported.

Lawmakers have argued that communities with fewer travel options are less attractive to businesses and people planning to relocate, so they hired a consultant to figure out how to lure airlines back or increase existing flights.

Mead & Hunt Project Manager Jeffrey Hartz told the committee Wednesday that there would need to be a financial incentive for the airlines to make any plan work.

“It could be a minimum revenue guarantee, it could be a capacity purchase type of agreement like the state of Wyoming has done. It could be more direct subsidy type of aspects,” he said.

California utility cuts power to 1 million over fire threat

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric says it will cut power to some 1 million people this weekend in central and Northern California, which could see the most dangerous fire weather of the season.

PG&E says it will begin safety shutoffs Sunday morning as gusts and low humidity ramp up the risk of downing power lines and sparking massive fires in tinder-dry brush.

The shutoffs in 38 counties could last into Tuesday.

PG&E equipment has been blamed for sparking some of the most devastating fires in recent years, including a 2018 blaze in Butte County that killed 85 people.

This year, wildfires already have destroyed some 9,200 buildings and killed 31 people.

Authorities look for killer of Oregon wolf; reward offered

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Someone shot a wolf in Oregon, leaving its pack without a breeding male, wildlife officials said as they announced a $6,150 reward for the shooter.

Wally Sykes with Northeast Oregon Ecosystems said he hopes this reward will inspire someone to come forward with information.

The radio-collared black wolf was found dead on a forest service road in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, about one mile east of Eagle Forks campground. It had been shot.

The wolf was the breeding male of the Cornucopia Pack in eastern Baker County, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

He and the breeding female raised three pups last year.

California prosecutors again seek death for Scott Peterson

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California prosecutors say they will again seek the death penalty for Scott Peterson even as a county judge considers throwing out his conviction for murdering his pregnant wife because of juror misconduct during a trial that riveted the nation.

The California Supreme Court in August overturned Peterson’s 2005 death sentence in a case that attracted worldwide attention.

Peterson appeared in court remotely from San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco, home to the state’s death row.

His sister-in-law says there has been no justice for Peterson’s slain wife and unborn child because he is innocent.

Laci Peterson was last seen on Christmas Eve 2002.

Some hospitals in crisis as US nears high for COVID-19 cases

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The United States is approaching a record for the number of new daily coronavirus cases in the latest ominous sign of the disease’s grip on the nation.

The surge’s impact is being felt in every section of the country. Among the latest developments: a lockdown at the Ogala Sioux Tribe’s reservation in South Dakota and a plea by a Florida health official for a halt to children’s birthday parties.

There’s an increasingly desperate situation at a hospital in northern Idaho, which is running out of space for patients and considering airlifts to Portland, Oregon, or Seattle.

The surge in the U.S. mirrors a similar spike in Europe.

Washington state discovers first ‘murder hornet’ nest in US

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Scientists in Washington state have discovered the first nest of so-called murder hornets in the United States and plan to wipe it out Saturday to protect native honeybees.

The state Agriculture Department said Friday that it found the nest of Asian giant hornets north of Seattle after trapping some of the insects this week and using dental floss to attach radio trackers.

The world’s largest hornets can decimate entire hives of honeybees and deliver painful stings to people.

Despite their nickname, the hornets kill at most a few dozen people a year in Asian countries, while other bugs cause more deaths in the U.S.

The real threat is their devastating attacks on already at-risk honeybees.

Seattle, Portland, New York sue over Trump’s ‘anarchy’ label

SEATTLE (AP) — New York, Seattle and Portland — three cities recently labeled “anarchist jurisdictions” by the U.S. Justice Department — are suing to to invalidate the designation and to fight off the Trump administration’s efforts to withhold federal dollars.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, ridiculed Trump’s action as offensive to the Constitution and common sense, but said the consequences of withholding federal money during a pandemic “are deadly serious.”

President Donald Trump issued a memorandum last month that sought to identify localities that permit “anarchy, violence and destruction in American cities” following riots that took place during protests after George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police.

Oregon opioid deaths last spring up 70% from previous year

Illicit fentanyl appears to be driving spike; connection to pandemic unclear

The Oregon Health Authority saw an alarming spike in opioid overdose deaths in Oregon this past spring compared to last year, and public health experts believe use of illicit fentanyl and methamphetamine is driving the increase.

Analysts in the Injury and Violence Prevention Section at the OHA Public Health Division found that Oregon saw a nearly 70% increase in the number of overdose deaths during April and May 2020 compared to the same time in 2019.

There also was a nearly 8% increase in the number of overdose deaths during the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The preliminary data come from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS), which includes combined and abstracted data from medical examiners and death certificates.

Additionally, the analysis found, between April and May 2020 there was a 28% increase in overdose deaths, and a more than 15% increase in overdose deaths between March and April. And opioid-involved deaths accounted for almost 73% of total overdose deaths in May 2020.

Of opioid-involved deaths, the data show, fentanyl and heroin continue to be the drugs most frequently involved, and fentanyl-involved deaths accounted for almost 40% of total overdose deaths in May 2020.

The analysis also uncovered a continuing alarming trend in methamphetamine use: Methamphetamine/amphetamine-involved deaths accounted for more than 40% of all overdose deaths in May 2020.

What’s unclear is what effect the COVID-19 pandemic may have had on opioid misuse in Oregon.

“Until more data become available, it is premature to say how much of the spike in overdose deaths is attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tom Jeanne, M.D., MPH, deputy state health officer and deputy state epidemiologist at the Public Health Division. “However, the realization that we will be dealing with COVID-19 for some time, and other stressors related to jobs, school and social isolation, may increase feelings of anxiety and depression, and that can lead to a harmful level of alcohol or other drug use.”

OHA continues to monitor and post finalized opioid data on its Prescribing and Drug Overdose Data Dashboard at https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/preventionwellness/substanceuse/opioids/pages/data.aspx.

Health officials are reminding people that opioid use disorder can be successfully treated.

Those who need help to stop using opioids can talk to their health care providers or view OHA’s list of resources. In addition, Oregon law allows lay people to carry and use naloxone, a medication that can be used to reverse an opioid overdose, on other people. Learn more about naloxone.

Oregon-based nonprofit Lines for Life and OHA recently launched the Safe + Strong Helpline at 1-800-923-4357 (800-923-HELP).

The line offers free, 24-7 emotional support and resource referral to anyone who needs it—not only those experiencing a mental health crisis.

The Safe + Strong Helpline is a response to needs for emotional support around disasters like COVID-19 and wildfires and was funded by the CARES Act. Callers are routed to a counselor who can provide emotional support, mental health triage, drug and alcohol counseling, crisis counseling or just connection.

Skull found on Mount Hood was missing 19-year-old woman

PORTLAND, ore. (AP) — Authorities said Thursday new DNA analysis has definitively matched a skull found on Mount Hood in the mid-1980s to a young woman reported missing a decade earlier.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports investigators are hoping the information will help them determine what led to the death of 19-year-old Wanda Ann Herr.

The mystery began in 1986 when two Forest Service workers happened upon the partial skull, some bone fragments and a tooth near Government Camp off U.S. 26, said the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, which is overseeing the investigation and issued a news release.

More than a week after the discovery, a forensic examiner with the Oregon State Police determined the remains belonged to a young woman or a small man and the bones had likely been in the forest for 10 years or more.

Then the remains sat in evidence for more than two decades until in 2008 a state forensic anthropologist re-examined them and developed a better victim description: the bones belonged to a woman in her late teens to early 20s.

With that new information, an imaging specialist created a facial reconstruction using clay. The reconstruction generated leads, officials said, but ultimately resulted in no forward momentum.

Another decade passed and, in 2019, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office received a grant to begin DNA analysis on more than 100 sets of unidentified remains, the Mount Hood skull among them.

“This new info, combined with extensive genealogical research, soon revealed a likely name for the young woman: Wanda Ann Herr, born in 1957,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Investigators were able to track down Herr’s surviving sisters, who told officials that she had disappeared sometime after June 1976 while possibly living in a group home near Gresham.