CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES-CRIMINAL CHARGES
Additional charge filed in California wildfire
REDDING, Calif. (AP) - Prosecutors in Northern California have filed involuntary manslaughter charges against a man suspected of starting a wildfire that left one person dead.
Thirty-seven-year-old Freddie Alexander Smoke III, of Sacramento, was already facing charges of marijuana cultivation and accidentally starting a fire in connection with this month's Bully Fire near the community of Igo. The Shasta County District Attorney's Office said Monday it's now seeking his arrest on the manslaughter charge.
Smoke is accused of starting the fire while delivering supplies to an illegal marijuana grow. Authorities believe the exhaust from his rental truck sparked the blaze.
The fire scorched nearly 20 square miles before it was contained. Smoke posted bail on his original charges before the remains of 38-year-old Jesus Arellano Garcia were found in the fire's path.
Officials tell the Record Searchlight of Redding that Smoke has ties to Redding, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Indiana and Illinois.
Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
PLYMOUTH, Calif. (AP) - Fire officials say a private drone trying to record footage of a Northern California wildfire nearly hindered their air assault.
State fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff says the drone was sighted above the fire burning in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento on Sunday, two days after the fire broke out.
The person controlling the unmanned aircraft, whom she did not identify, was trying to get video of the blaze and was told to stop by authorities because of the potential danger to firefighting planes.
The fire - one of two that has forced evacuations in California - has burned through a little under 6 square miles and was 65 percent contained. Some of the roughly 1,200 people under evacuation orders were allowed to return to their homes Monday morning.
E-mails show cozy ties between PG&E, regulator
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Newly released emails show top California regulators communicated often and enthusiastically with executives at PG&E, as they simultaneously presided over a case to decide how much the utility should pay for a deadly explosion in a San Francisco Bay area suburb.
The City of San Bruno released emails on Monday between California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey and PG&E after suing for their release earlier this year. The PUC is charged with punishing PG&E in the wake of the 2010 pipeline blast in San Bruno that claimed eight lives.
Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill says the emails show an illegal and inappropriate relationship between the utility and the powerful state agency.
PG&E President Chris Johns said the company is required to communicate regularly with the commission.
BAY SEWAGE SETTLEMENT
EPA reaches San Francisco Bay pollution settlement
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A San Francisco Bay Area water agency and six cities it serves have agreed to pay $1.5 million in fines to settle allegations that they allowed raw or partially treated sewage to flow into the bay.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the penalties are part of a settlement to a lawsuit it brought five years ago against the cities and the East Bay Municipal Utility District.
Under the deal announced Monday, the water district and the cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont also agreed to invest an estimated $1.5 billion over the next 21 years to upgrade their aging sewer systems to prevent future spills.
According to the EPA, about 1.1 billion gallons of sewage was either forced out of manholes during storms or illegally discharged from the water districts between 2009 and last year.
POOL WATER DUMPING-TAHOE
Resort fires 3 after pool water dumped in S. Tahoe
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) - Officials at a South Lake Tahoe resort say they fired three employees who improperly drained about 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of chlorinated pool water into a stormwater basin.
City officials tell the Tahoe Daily Tribune that the incident involving Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort happened June 25 and was reported by the hotel a few days later.
Jason Burke of the city's stormwater program says the discharges are not allowed because the chlorine is toxic to aquatic plants. But he says there was no evidence the dump killed off plants when he checked the basin a few days after the pool was drained.
Alan Miller of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board says it's unlikely the resort will face fines because it's taken internal steps to prevent similar incidents.
DROUGHT-GOLD RUSH EVENT
Drought cancels Sacramento's Gold Rush Days
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Sacramento officials are canceling the city's annual Gold Rush Days festivities because of the ongoing drought.
Steve Hammond, president of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Monday that too much water would be needed to bring in and later clean up the nearly 200 tons of dirt used for the Labor Day weekend event.
The bureau says the dirt transforms Old Sacramento into a scene from the 1850s and provides a safe foundation for horses, wagons and street performances.
But it takes up to 3,000 gallons of water per day to keep the dirt damp enough to contain dust and up to 100,000 gallons to clean the streets when the event is over.
Hammond says the dry conditions are also a fire hazard for cannon and weapons demonstrations.
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