- 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)
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)
Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air
While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.
Booster Rollout in Flux
President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.
The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.
However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.
The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.
Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.
Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.
Debate Continues in Crucial Week
More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.
On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.
The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide.
On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.
The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.”
Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.
Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.
“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”
It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.
Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.
Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.
Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.
“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”