Connect with us

U.S.

Gender Reveal Stunt Triggers 10,000 Acre Fire in CA, Prompts Tens of Thousands to Evacuate

Published

on

  • A smoke bomb at a gender reveal party Saturday sparked a massive wildfire in San Bernardino County, California.
  • Since the reveal, the fire has spread to more than 10,000 acres and is only 16% contained as of Tuesday.
  • More than 21,000 people have had to evacuate their homes because of the stunt.
  • Elsewhere in California, a fire known as the Creek Fire has burned 135,000 since Friday and is still uncontrolled. 
  • Along with California, most of the western United States is at an increased risk for fires, and many are already dealing with some fires because of a combination of dry heat and early-season winds. 

Gender Reveal Party Leads to Wildfire

Since first gaining popularity in 2008, gender reveal parties have grown increasingly complex, and at times, dangerous. The fallout from one reveal in San Bernardino County, California has now led to a massive wildfire that has burned more than 10,000 acres.

That fire, which began Saturday after the expecting family set off a smoke bomb, was only 16% contained as of Tuesday morning. While still largely uncontrolled, that number is up somewhat from 7% on Monday night. 

When that smoke bomb ignited, it also ignited the extremely dry vegetation around it. Reportedly, the couple and their family tried to put out the fire with water bottles, but they were unable to stop it as it quickly spread across four-foot-tall vegetation.

The party and subsequent fire have also forced 21,000 people to evacuate their homes. 

Because of the incident, Cal Fire has reminded people that it is currently fire season and much of the state is under incredibly dry conditions.

“Those responsible for starting fires due to negligence or illegal activity can be held financially and criminally responsible,” Cal Fire said in a warning.

The people involved in the San Bernadino incident, now known as the El Dorado Fire, will likely face at least misdemeanor charges, but they could also face felony charges since the fire has already spread to forest land. 

This is not the first time a gender reveal party has led to disaster or even another wildfire. In 2017, one similarly explosive reveal caused 47,000 acres of land in Arizona to burn. 

Since then, blogger Jenna Myers Karvunidis — the woman who’s been credited with popularizing gender reveal parties — has repeatedly called for expecting parents to stop throwing the increasingly dangerous reveals.

“Stop having these stupid parties,” Karvunidis said on Facebook in reference to the El Dorado Fire. “For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you.”

“It was 116 degrees in Pasadena yesterday and this tool thought it would be smart to light a fire about his kid’s dick. Toxic masculinity is men thinking they need to explode something because simply enjoying a baby party is for sissies.”

“Oh, and of course I’m getting hate messages. Excuse me for having a cake for my family in 2008. Just because I’m the gEnDeR rEvEaL iNVeNtoR doesn’t mean I think people should burn down their communities.”

Others, including affected residents in the proximity of the El Dorado Fire, have also criticized the family who threw the reveal.

“That place, there’s nothing green out there,” resident Patrick Patterson told KABC News. “It’s a meadow of dry, brown, dead grass. Why would you go out there and think that you can light off any kind of firework?”

California Sets Fire Record

On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino County, but it’s far from the only county in the state that is now under an emergency because of raging wildfires.

In fact, wildfires have burned through 2 million acres alone this year in the state, and 2020 has now become California’s most-burned year on record since those records began back in 1987.

Part of that is because of dry conditions throughout the state, as well as the fact that it is fire season, but it’s also because the state has been battling a blistering heat wave. In Los Angeles County, temperatures surged to 121 degrees this past weekend. All of that together has then helped to either create or maintain already-existing fires. 

On Friday night, another fire — known as the Creek Fire — sparked in the Sierra National Forest, which is about 290 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

As of Tuesday morning, the Creek Fire has burned over 143,000 acres and is completely uncontained. The fire is even so big that it has generated what’s known as pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which later triggered lightning. Weather experts also believe that the fire likely spawned a fire tornado at one point

About 50 hikers were trapped at a wilderness resort for two nights near Fresno because all escape routes had been cut off by the fire. Monday night, rescue crews tried to reach them but were unsuccessful. Officials said those people weren’t in immediate danger, and some of the hikers were later airlifted out of the area on Tuesday morning.

Authorities have also ordered mass evacuations in Fresno County, where the fire rages. Between 25,000 to 30,000 people were ordered to evacuate over the weekend, and a fresh round of evacuations was ordered Tuesday morning.

“This is an unprecedented disaster for Fresno County,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “This is one of the largest and most dangerous fires in the history of Fresno County. I don’t think everyone understands that. Playing that game of ‘how long can I wait’ is just foolish.”

Fires Throughout the West

It’s not just California dealing with this issue. Fires are raging all across the western United States. Much of the West is now under a series of red flag warnings, including parts of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. 

In Malden, Washington, fires have destroyed 80 percent of buildings in the town of 200 — including homes, the fire station, the post office, city hall, and the library. 

In Oregon, winds and dry conditions fueled several different fire outbreaks that have burned through more than 27,000 acres. Those outbreaks then prompted evacuations as those fires creeped toward residential areas.

In other parts of Oregon, almost 100,000 residents lost power last night as winds brought down trees and transformers exploded. To prevent downed power lines from sparking more fires, Portland General Electric preemptively shut off power for 5,000 residents.

This Week’s Wind Predictions and Safety

It’s possible that more fires could pop up or ones that are already raging could get worse as early Santa Ana winds blow through Southern California on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those winds usually don’t appear until the Fall months. 

Because of them, the region could begin to see forced blackouts to prevent power lines from sparking if they’re blown over. That would follow other shutdowns that were seen in the region over the weekend, some of which were still in effect as of Tuesday morning. 

For those in affected areas, whether California or another Western state, make sure to keep up to date on air quality conditions. In many areas, including Los Angeles, the sky is blanketed yellow with a smokey haze.

Because of that, the L.A. Department of Public Health has issued several safety measures for its residents, including keeping windows and doors closed, not smoking, and keeping pets inside.

You can review more safety recommendations by clicking the KTLA link below. 

See what others are saying: (KABC) (The Washington Post) (KTLA 5)

U.S.

Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan

Published

on

The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”


Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

Continue Reading

U.S.

Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.

Published

on

In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.


New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

Continue Reading

U.S.

COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open

Published

on

While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.


Schools Respond to Omicron Surge

U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.

According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.

That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.

Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.

In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.

Teachers Protest In-Person Learning

Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.

One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).

Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.

On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.

Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”

Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.

On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.

See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (CNN) (The New York Times)

Continue Reading