Gusty winds, low humidity tax worn-out California firefighters

Firefighters battling the massive Thomas Fire in Southern California have contained 25% of the blaze, but the weary crews have their work cut out for them Wednesday and in the days to come.

Wind gusts and low humidity are giving life to the ravaging blaze — a behemoth larger than New York City — that is destroying and damaging property and prompting mandatory and voluntary evacuations.

The inferno threatens Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland, Montecito and surrounding areas, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.

Relief from the parched and blustery weather won’t be in sight for several days.

“The dry spell looks to sustain itself for at least the next week,” said CNN meteorologist Michael Guy. “But some long-range models project some rain relief coming by Christmas which would be a welcome gift for the firefighters and residents of the region. This is still a long way out, so we will keep monitoring it for any changes.”

Latest developments

Making history: At more than 236,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the Thomas Fire is now the fifth-largest wildfire in modern California history.

Devastation: Seven hundred and one single-family residences, 12 commercial structures and 182 minor structures have been destroyed.

Red flag warning: An advisory citing critical fire weather conditions is in effect until 10 a.m. (1 p.m. ET) Friday.

Wind: Gusts could reach 40 mph or higher in parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Humidity: Levels will still be extremely low with low recovery in the overnight hours. Temperatures will remain in the upper 70s and low 80s. Santa Ana wind advisories are possible by the end of the week.

Evacuations: At least 95,000 residents have been evacuated in Southern California, Cal Fire said.

Death toll: There has been one death in the Thomas Fire. Authorities said they believe Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula died in a crash while fleeing the fire. Her body was found last Wednesday.

More than 1,000 structures destroyed

The Thomas Fire is one of six major wildfires torching Southern California. The fires have destroyed more than 1,000 structures since igniting.

The blazes vary in size, but together, they are larger than the cities of New York and Boston combined, or bigger than Singapore.

One of the fires, named Skirball, was caused by an “illegal cooking fire at an encampment in a brush area” near where Sepulveda Boulevard crosses under the San Diego Freeway, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. No arrests have been made.

The Skirball Fire, which broke out a week ago, consumed more than 400 acres, destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others, the fire department said in a statement. It’s 85% contained.

The causes of the other major fires have yet to be determined.

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Gusty winds, low humidity tax worn-out California firefighters

Firefighters battling the massive Thomas Fire in Southern California have contained 25% of the blaze, but the weary crews have their work cut out for them Wednesday and in the days to come.

Wind gusts and low humidity are giving life to the ravaging blaze — a behemoth larger than New York City — that is destroying and damaging property and prompting mandatory and voluntary evacuations.

The inferno threatens Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland, Montecito and surrounding areas, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.

Relief from the parched and blustery weather won’t be in sight for several days.

“The dry spell looks to sustain itself for at least the next week,” said CNN meteorologist Michael Guy. “But some long-range models project some rain relief coming by Christmas which would be a welcome gift for the firefighters and residents of the region. This is still a long way out, so we will keep monitoring it for any changes.”

Latest developments

Making history: At more than 236,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the Thomas Fire is now the fifth-largest wildfire in modern California history.

Devastation: Seven hundred and one single-family residences, 12 commercial structures and 182 minor structures have been destroyed.

Red flag warning: An advisory citing critical fire weather conditions is in effect until 10 a.m. (1 p.m. ET) Friday.

Wind: Gusts could reach 40 mph or higher in parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Humidity: Levels will still be extremely low with low recovery in the overnight hours. Temperatures will remain in the upper 70s and low 80s. Santa Ana wind advisories are possible by the end of the week.

Evacuations: At least 95,000 residents have been evacuated in Southern California, Cal Fire said.

Death toll: There has been one death in the Thomas Fire. Authorities said they believe Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula died in a crash while fleeing the fire. Her body was found last Wednesday.

More than 1,000 structures destroyed

The Thomas Fire is one of six major wildfires torching Southern California. The fires have destroyed more than 1,000 structures since igniting.

The blazes vary in size, but together, they are larger than the cities of New York and Boston combined, or bigger than Singapore.

One of the fires, named Skirball, was caused by an “illegal cooking fire at an encampment in a brush area” near where Sepulveda Boulevard crosses under the San Diego Freeway, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. No arrests have been made.

The Skirball Fire, which broke out a week ago, consumed more than 400 acres, destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others, the fire department said in a statement. It’s 85% contained.

The causes of the other major fires have yet to be determined.

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Who is Doug Jones, the Democrat who just won in Alabama?

In a shocking upset Tuesday night, Democrat Doug Jones was projected to become the US senator-elect for the state of Alabama, defeating embattled Republican Roy Moore.

The deep-red state elected Jones after his opponent, Moore, was accused by multiple women of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, and some of them accused Moore of sexual assault or abuse.

Moore, now 70, has denied the allegations, painting them as a smear campaign by the Democratic Party and the media.

Jones, a 63-year-old attorney from Birmingham, Alabama, had never run for office before. In 2016, Alabama voted for Donald Trump by a 28-point landslide. The state has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Richard Shelby was re-elected in 1992. However, Shelby became a Republican in 1994 and still serves in that seat.

In 1997, then-President Bill Clinton named Jones the US attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham. Five years later, Jones served as the lead prosecutor in a lawsuit against two of the four Ku Klux Klan members responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in September 1963. This act of racial violence killed four African-American girls during church services. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had called it “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.” Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry were found guilty in 2001 and 2002, respectively, and each was sentenced to four life terms.

Jones was also involved in the prosecution of Eric Rudolph, whose 1998 attack on a Birmingham abortion clinic killed an off-duty police officer. Rudolph was sentenced in 2005, after Jones left office.

Referencing his time going after the KKK, Jones wrote a Huffington Post op-ed in September, saying he does not want to let history repeat itself.

“Sadly, the pattern of violence as a response to hope has reasserted itself,” he wrote. “We saw it in the Charleston church massacre in 2015. We saw it on display in Charlottesville this past August. We’ve seen it in the attacks on mosques and synagogues, and against the LGBT community. We see it in the hostility toward the Latino community. We cannot sweep this violence under the rug. We must address the forces that lead to it and prosecute those who perpetrate such acts.”

On the issues

Jones is a supporter of abortion rights, telling AL.com, “I fully support a woman’s freedom to choose what happens to her own body. That is an intensely, intensely personal decision that only she, in consultation with her god, her doctor, her partner or family, that’s her choice.”

Jones is also a supporter of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Writing on his campaign website, Jones says he is “disturbed” by the multiple attempts to repeal the law. “I would adamantly oppose any proposal that does not protect Alabamians from rising health care costs, higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses while ensuring those with preexisting conditions cannot be denied coverage or charged more,” he wrote.

On the Second Amendment, Jones told MSNBC in an interview that he is a “Second Amendment guy” but called for expanded background checks.

He is pro-LGBT and has criticized Trump for his decisions to withdraw the guidelines for schools for the treatment of transgender students and to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The latter decision has been blocked by the courts.

Jones supports reforming the tax code but does not back the current Senate GOP bill, which he called “overloaded” with tax breaks for the wealthy. As Jones will not be seated until January, it is most likely he will not vote on the bill that’s in conference in Congress.

On the issue of border security, Jones’ campaign told PolitiFact in November that he supports strengthening security on the border but has called the proposed wall “too expensive.” Jones supports the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which defers deportation for young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children. Trump ended DACA, but Democrats and several Republicans are hoping to legislatively fix it.

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Roy Moore won’t concede

Republican Roy Moore did not concede to Democrat Doug Jones in the US Senate race as he addressed supporters Tuesday in Montgomery, Alabama — even after CNN and other networks projected Jones the winner, Jones declared victory and President Donald Trump congratulated Moore’s Democratic opponent.

Read Moore’s full speech:

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You know, I really want to thank you for coming tonight and realize when the vote is this close, that it’s not over. And we still got to go by the rules about this recount provision, and Secretary of State has explained it to us and we’re expecting that the press will go up there and talk to them to find out what the situation is. But we also know that God is always in control.

You know, part of the thing — part of the problem with this campaign is we’ve been painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light. We’ve been put in a hole, if you will. And it reminds me of a passage in Psalms 40. I waited patiently for the Lord, that’s what you got to do. He inclined to me, heard my cry, brought us up out of a horrible pit, out of slimy clay and set me feet on the rock and established my goings and put a new song in our mouth. Praise to our God. Many shall see it and hear it and shall be moved by that, if you will.

And that’s what we’ve got to do, is wait on God and let this process play out.

I know it’s late. We can’t wait and have everybody wait until after 11. But the votes are still coming in, and we’re looking at that. May God bless you as you go on, give you safe journey, and thank you for coming tonight. It’s not over and it’s going to take some time. Thank you.

Thank you, thank you. Let’s go home, we’ll take it on tomorrow.

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Florida men charged in connection to viral shark dragging video

Three Manatee County men have been charged Tuesday in connection to the viral shark dragging incident from July.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office announced 21-year-old Michael Wenzel, 28-year-old Robert Lee Benac and 23-year-old Spencer Heintz have all been charged with animal cruelty after a four-month long investigation into the graphic video of a shark being dragged behind a boat.

“As we’ve said since this video and other images came to light, these actions have no place in Florida, where we treasure and conserve our natural resources for everyone,” Commission Chairman Bo Rivard said. “It is our hope these charges will send a clear message to others that this kind of behavior involving our fish and wildlife will not be tolerated.”

Governor Rick Scott also released a statement after the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office’s announced the charges.

“I was outraged by the sickening video of a shark being horribly abused earlier this year,” he said “Florida has no tolerance for this mistreatment, and I am proud of the hard work of FWC law enforcement during this investigation to hold these individuals accountable for their horrific actions.”

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