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At Least 7 People Killed In West Coast Wildfires; Dangerous Winds Forecast To Ease – NPR

Firefighters cut defensive lines and light backfires to protect structures behind a Cal Fire fire station at the Bear Fire, part of the North Lightning Complex of fires in the Berry Creek area of Butte County, Calif., on Wednesday.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images


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Firefighters cut defensive lines and light backfires to protect structures behind a Cal Fire fire station at the Bear Fire, part of the North Lightning Complex of fires in the Berry Creek area of Butte County, Calif., on Wednesday.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

At least seven people have died in wildfires that are raging in Oregon, California and Washington state, adding to the horrible toll from record-setting fires in 2020.

“This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfires in our state’s history,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said.

Large parts of the West Coast were under warnings for elevated fire weather threats Thursday, but there could soon be a measure of relief as forecasts call for a decrease in fire-driving winds.

“The strong, gusty winds over the West are expected to weaken by the weekend,” the National Weather Service says. Even so, the agency adds, high temperatures and low humidity will still pose a threat.

The seven confirmed deaths are three people in Oregon, three in California and one in Washington state.

The Almeda Drive Fire in southern Oregon, which devastated the towns of Phoenix and Talent, caused at least one death, Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler said. The body was found near the fire’s point of origin and “the cause of death is under criminal investigation,” Jefferson Public Radio reports.

Two other people died in Marion County, “where a complex of fires has burned whole canyons east of the Willamette River,” Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. Those victims were a boy, 13, and his grandmother, the Salem Statesman Journal reports. The boy’s mother is in critical condition at a Portland hospital, the newspaper says.

Vehicles were destroyed by a wildfire in Malden, Wash., on Tuesday. Large parts of the West Coast are under warnings for elevated fire weather threats Thursday, but there may be relief if fire-driving winds decrease as expected.

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Vehicles were destroyed by a wildfire in Malden, Wash., on Tuesday. Large parts of the West Coast are under warnings for elevated fire weather threats Thursday, but there may be relief if fire-driving winds decrease as expected.

Jed Conklin/AP

A 1-year-old died in the Cold Springs Fire in northern Washington state, Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said in a statement. The boy was killed as his family tried to reach safer ground, according to KXLY-TV. His parents were reportedly hospitalized with severe burns.

'I Heard Popping And Houses Blowing Up': Deadly Wildfires Rage On West Coast

In California, three people died as the fast-growing Bear Fire forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes in Yuba and Butte counties, according to Capital Public Radio. Local officials did not offer details about those deaths when they initially announced them.

Evacuation orders include part of Paradise – the community devastated by the Camp Fire in 2018. Nearby residents say they’re vividly recalling that tragedy this week.

“People said, ‘Oh, our tires were melting, you know, and just scared to death and getting burned,’ ” Pamela Newton tells Capital Public Radio. “And that’s all I could think about.”

Butte County firefighters watch as flames quickly spread across a road at the Bear Fire in Oroville, Calif., on Wednesday. The local sheriff says three people died as a result of fires in the area.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images


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Butte County firefighters watch as flames quickly spread across a road at the Bear Fire in Oroville, Calif., on Wednesday. The local sheriff says three people died as a result of fires in the area.

Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Other people who live near Lake Oroville described fleeing the small town of Berry Creek in the middle of the night, driving through a corridor of burning houses as ash rained down from the sky. Before they left, many of them tried to give their homes a chance to survive.

“I left the sprinklers on the roof when I left,” Ron Elms tells Capital Public Radio. “I left the generator on. I did everything I could to save it. So we’ll just see.”

California has already seen more than 2.5 million acres burn this year — a record dating back at least three decades to when the state started tracking the statistic. In a normal season, an average of 300,000 acres would likely burn.

This year’s fire season has already hit the record books, with more acres burning in 2020 than any other year in the past 3 decades (since statewide figures have been tracked). 2020 has already taken the number one spot for acres burned and there are still several months to go. pic.twitter.com/hgI7Vw0clS

— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) September 9, 2020

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, “2020 has already taken the number one spot for acres burned and there are still several months to go” in the fire season.

Wildfires in Oregon and Washington have burned more than 900,000 acres, the Bureau of Land Management said.

Patricia Fouts sits with her dog, Murphy, and other evacuated residents of a senior living home in an evacuation center at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, Ore., on Tuesday. Marian Estates senior living home in Sublimity, Ore., was evacuated early Tuesday as a wildfire closed in on the area.

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Patricia Fouts sits with her dog, Murphy, and other evacuated residents of a senior living home in an evacuation center at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, Ore., on Tuesday. Marian Estates senior living home in Sublimity, Ore., was evacuated early Tuesday as a wildfire closed in on the area.

Andrew Selsky/AP

Two new large fires have emerged in Oregon, the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said in its update Thursday morning, adding to the misery in an area that also saw “significant growth” among the fires already burning in western Oregon’s valleys.

Gov. Brown has asked President Trump to approve her request for a major disaster declaration for Oregon.

A smoky haze blanketed San Francisco on Wednesday. California has already seen more than 2.5 million acres burn this year.

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A smoky haze blanketed San Francisco on Wednesday. California has already seen more than 2.5 million acres burn this year.

Brittany Hosea-Small/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of unpredictable and large fires over such a large geographic area has strained firefighting resources. While some neighboring states have pitched in to help, the effort has become international.

“Federal fire managers say Canadian and Mexican fire crews are now helping out on the West Coast,” NPR’s Kirk Siegler reports. “And the agency is requesting more help in the form of 10 hand crews from the U.S. military.”

Those crews might get a break if the winds drop, which would be welcome news along the coast but less so in inland areas — as the massive banks of smoke that have accrued along the Pacific coast would start to move eastward.

A low-level wind pattern has been driving smoke to the west for several days, blanketing cities such as Seattle and San Francisco with an eerie, orange haze. As the wind direction shifts, “smoke from the wildfires may waft and settle inland,” the NWS says.

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Categories
Football Least

At Least 30 LSU Football Players Quarantined Due to COVID-19 Outbreak – Sports Illustrated

Like many in college football, the defending national champions are as well battling a viral outbreak.

At least one-quarter of LSU’s football team was in quarantine this week because of virus-related concerns, multiple sources tell Sports Illustrated, but that number is continuously fluctuating based on test results. At least 30 of LSU’s 115 players have been isolated because they tested positive for COVID-19 or were found to have had contact with those who tested positive.

High-ranking LSU athletic department officials declined comment Saturday, citing medical privacy laws. They referred SI to Shelly Mullenix, the school’s long-time senior associate athletic trainer. In an interview Saturday, Mullenix declined to confirm the numbers of those who have or had been quarantined, but said LSU’s situation was on par with a nationwide uptick in the virus related to the Memorial Day holiday and the widespread mass gatherings from protests. “It’s not surprising we’re seeing the rise right now,” she told SI. “It’s a pandemic. We should not be shocked. The story is that it’s exactly what we said it would be. We were prepared from the get-go for a lot of virus. The good news is we’re seeing subtle virus illness.”

No LSU athlete or staff member has required hospitalization, and very few have experienced effects beyond mild symptoms. Officials are thankful that athletes were on campus, where the school has quick accessibility to testing and results.

A portion of LSU’s football players are quarantined after frequenting a string of nightclubs near the school’s campus called Tigerland. On Friday, the Louisiana Department of Health announced that more than 100 Tigerland bar-goers have tested positive for the virus and warned those who have frequented the establishments to quarantine for at least 14 days. Mullenix is in constant contact with the Louisiana Department of Health, showing health officials team trends, a process that helped reveal the Tigerland bar outbreak.

Infected or potentially infected LSU players have been isolating with roommates in their on-campus apartments, and some of them have continued to participate in modified, outdoor workouts with their own quarantine group, though they are not required to do so. Meanwhile, constant testing is being administered through the contract-tracing process. The school, in fact, got good news Friday night, when test results returned negative for a group of players who had frequented the bars. Mullenix is confident that LSU’s facility safety protocols have worked. None of the positive cases have been traced back to workouts within the facility, but have been contracted in the community, at bars and restaurants. “When you do contact tracing and get some honesty from kids, it’s very easy to see where it came from and what happened,” Mullenix says. “I can talk to them about wearing a mask, but if your mask is under your nose, you’re not wearing a mask.”

LSU was one of a handful of programs that did not initially test all athletes once they returned to campus in early June, only administering the antibody test. That decision did not impact the recent surge, Mullenix says, as LSU’s uptick in cases were a result of gatherings in the Baton Rouge community. The school is aggressively conducting diagnostic testing on those who show symptoms or those who have been found to contact players who tested positive.

LSU officials describe their quarantine method as a “better safe than sorry” approach, isolating those with even a small trace of contact with people who have tested positive. “I’m protecting Baton Rouge from getting a higher viral load. That’s my obligation,” Mullenix says. “The quarantine, while frustrating, prevents community spread.”

The news in Baton Rouge comes on the heels of Clemson announcing that 28 people in the athletic department had tested positive for the virus, including 21 football players and two staff members. Earlier this week, Texas announced that 13 players had tested positive for the virus and that 10 more were in quarantine. Kansas State announced Saturday that it is pausing voluntary workouts for 14 days, after a total of 14 athletes tested positive for COVID-19.

Several schools, including LSU, are not announcing their positive test totals. According to reported numbers and announcements, more than 60 Division I players have tested positive with more than 100 in isolation or quarantine. The true numbers, though, are much higher. Medical staff members from various schools are in constant communication, sharing information with one another. Mullenix says LSU’s situation isn’t vastly different than other programs.

A return to on-campus workouts brought with it a fear that is now being realized: Athletes are contracting the virus while attending social gatherings when outside of their school’s sanitized facility. That’s becoming the case at LSU. “People are human. When you’re told you can go back out, you’ve been locked up for so long, there’s really not a middle ground,” Mullenix says. “Right thing to do is put on your mask, go to those places and pick up your order. We’re so desperate to socialize because we’re humans. It’s hard to pull back from that.”

An athletic director at another SEC school, for instance, told SI on Friday that several of his football players contracted the virus through a game of cards. The college environment presents a challenge unlike the professional levels, but Mullenix says she remains hopeful that a 2020 football season will be played. “I don’t know that I feel worse than I did two months ago—I feel better,” she says. “What I understand from my colleagues around the country and just sharing the numbers is that we’re doing really well. No one is getting really ill and hospitalized. I could see where the train of thought could be, ‘We seem to be moving through this virus.’ For every day, we are learning more information. Part of me feels good. If we were seeing no virus and knew the virus was spiking everywhere, that would not be good.”

LSU’s in-facility protocols are intense. Players enter the football facility through one entrance while coaches enter through another. Infrared cameras read players’ temperatures before each athlete meets with a trainer for a lengthy questionnaire. If cleared, they are handed a bracelet giving them freedom to move around the facility. This process repeats each day. Mullenix says that roughly two-thirds of cases have been caught because of fever.

Mullenix’s chief concern is asymptomatic players returning home to visit their families, potentially infecting their older relatives. LSU is encouraging all players to remain on campus over the weekend. In a more global expectation, Mullenix hopes the virus “moves through” college athletics. Experts are seeing that those who contract the virus a second time are only shedding for one to two days as opposed to their first infection, which can shed up to two weeks. “It is at a high contagion right now. It’s a trend,” Mullenix says. “They’re seeing that in the hospital as well. There’s an uptick. We’re coming off holidays and protests. All those things add to it.”

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