Thomas fire, California’s largest on record, finally 100 percent contained

LOS ANGELES — The Thomas fire, the largest wildfire on record in California and the trigger point for this week’s deadly mudslides in Montecito, was declared 100 percent contained Friday.

The fire burned for more than a month, though its spread was contained several weeks ago. Heavy rains earlier this week, which caused land burned by the fire to create mudflows that buried neighborhoods, helped fully extinguish the blaze. In the end, the fire burned 281,893 acres.

The fire eclipsed the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County, which burned 273,246 acres.

The milestone reaffirmed 2017 as the most destructive fire season in the state. In October, a series of fires in wine country burned more than 10,000 homes and killed more than 40 people.

Those blazes, along with the Thomas fire, were fueled by dry conditions and intense winds.

Despite its size, the Thomas fire has been less destructive than either the wine country fires or the Cedar fire, which destroyed 2,820 structures and killed 15 people.

The Thomas fire claimed just over 1,000 structures, and two deaths were attributed to the blaze. Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula, was found dead in a car that crashed along an evacuation route in Ventura County on Dec. 6, and San Diego fire engineer Cory Iverson, 32, was killed battling the fire on Dec. 14.

The fire broke out in the foothills above Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula on Dec. 4. Fueled by 50 mph winds, the fire swept into downtown Ventura, burning hundreds of homes that first morning.

For the next two weeks, the blaze ebbed and flowed with the winds. It swept into the Ojai Valley but spared the resort town. Then it moved up the southern Santa Barbara County coast, where firefighters made a stand in the hills above Montecito.

—Los Angeles Times

Jeff Bezos gives ‘Dreamers’ $33 million to pay for college

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, donated $33 million to fund 1,000 scholarships for so-called Dreamers, immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

The money will go to TheDream.US, the largest scholarship program for Dreamers. Each student receives $33,000 over four years to pay for college tuition, fees and books, the organization said. More than 2,500 students are enrolled in college with the help of the scholarships.

In September, President Donald Trump moved to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, putting 800,000 young immigrants at risk of deportation. Every two years, Dreamers could renew their DACA status and obtain work permits if they met certain requirements.

Dreamers have been at the center of the immigration debate, putting pressure on Congress to come up with a better legislative solution. On Jan. 9, a federal judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked Trump’s decision to end the DACA program.

DACA recipients are ineligible for federal financial aid and are ineligible for state financial aid in 44 states. In more than 15 states, they are required to pay out-of-state or international tuition rates, according to TheDream.US.

Bezos compared Dreamers to his father, who in the early 1960s was one of thousands of minors who immigrated to the United States from Cuba.

“With a lot of grit and determination — and the help of some remarkable organizations in Delaware — my dad became an outstanding citizens and he continues to give back to the country he feels blessed him in so many ways,” Bezos said in a statement.

—Los Angeles Times

Ozarks man hurled slurs at teens playing basketball and hit them with car, police say

An Ozarks man allegedly drove to a school for an arranged fight, hurled racial slurs at young teens playing basketball and struck two of them with his car.

Austin T. Fisher, 21, is charged with two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of armed criminal action in the late December incident.

He admitted to being on the scene at a Springfield public school but said he had only intended to scare the teens, both 14, when he pursued them with his vehicle through a field. Fisher also told police he was not aware he had struck the teens until after the incident.

The teens, who are not identified in court records, reported being hit by the front of Fisher’s vehicle and being swept onto its hood. One said he struck the windshield.

Both were later treated at a hospital for injuries ranging from a chipped tooth, back, leg and nose pain.

According to the teens, they were playing basketball at the Study Alternative Center when Fisher and other males arrived in a 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier.

They hurled racial slurs at the teens, and a physical altercation ensued, according to court records.

Fisher retreated to his vehicle and “began to drive toward them,” the teens told police.

Fisher told police he drove to the school for an arranged fight that he didn’t plan to take part in. He claimed he was “jumped” by a group of people, which prompted him to pursue them in his car.

Fisher pleaded not guilty on Thursday. His bond was set at $75,000.

—The Kansas City Star


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