- 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)
Supreme Court Rejects Third Challenge to Affordable Care Act
In the 7-2 decision, the justices argued the Republican-led states that brought the challenge forth failed to show how the law caused injury and thus had no legal standing.
SCOTUS Issues Opinion on Individual Mandate
The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the third Republican-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act to ever reach the high court.
The issue at hand was the provision of the law, commonly known as Obamacare, that requires people to either purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty: the so-called individual mandate.
The individual mandate has been one of the most controversial parts of Obamacare and it has already been before SCOTUS, which upheld the provision in 2012 on the grounds that it amounted to a tax and thus fell under Congress’ taxing power.
However, as part of the sweeping 2017 tax bill, the Republican-held Congress set the penalty for not having health care to $0. As a result, a group of Republican-led states headed by Texas sued, arguing that because their GOP colleagues made the mandate zero dollars, it no longer raised revenues and could not be considered a tax, thus making it unconstitutional.
The states also argued that the individual mandate is such a key part of Obamacare that it could not be separated without getting rid of the entire law.
The Supreme Court, however, rejected that argument in a 7-2 decision, with Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting.
Majority Opinion Finds No Injury
In the majority decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the Republican states had no grounds to sue because they could not show how they were harmed by their own colleagues zeroing out the penalty.
“There is no possible government action that is causally connected to the plaintiffs’ injury — the costs of purchasing health insurance,” he wrote, adding that the states “have not demonstrated that an unenforceable mandate will cause their residents to enroll in valuable benefits programs that they would otherwise forgo.”
Breyer also argued that because of this, the court did not need to decide on the broader issue of whether the 2017 tax bill rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional and if that provision could be separated from the ACA.
The highly anticipated decision will officially keep Obamacare as the law of the land, ensuring that the roughly 20 million people enrolled still have health insurance. While there may be other challenges to the law hard-fought by conservatives, this latest ruling sends a key signal about the limits of the Republican efforts to achieve their agenda through the high court, even with the strong conservative majority.
While the court has now struck down challenges to Obamacare three times, Thursday’s decision marked the largest margin of victory of all three challenges to the ACA.
For now, the ACA appears to be fairly insulated from legal challenges, though it will still likely face more. In a tweet following the SCOTUS decision, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) vowed to keep fighting Obamacare, adding that the individual mandate “was unconstitutional when it was enacted and it is still unconstitutional.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Utah Student With Down Syndrome Left Out of Cheer Squad’s Yearbook Photo
The move marks the second time in three years that Morgyn Arnold has been left out of the school’s yearbook. Two years ago, it failed to include her in the class list.
Two Photos Take, One Without Morgyn Arnold
A Utah school has apologized after a student with Down syndrome at Shoreline Junior High was excluded from her cheerleading squad’s yearbook photo.
The squad took two official team portraits this year. The first included 14-year-old Morgyn Arnold, who had been working as the team manager but attended practices and cheered alongside her other teammates at every home game. The second imsgr did not include her and ended up being the photo the school used across social media and in its yearbook.
Arnold was heartbroken by the decision and her family believed it was made because of her disability.
In social media posts about the move, Arnold’s sister, Jordyn Poll, noted that Arnold “spent hours learning dances, showing up to games, and cheering on her school and friends but was left out.”
“I hope that no one ever has to experience the heartbreak that comes when the person they love comes home from school devastated and shows them that they’re not in the picture with their team,” she continued.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Poll also said this marked the second time in three years that her sister has been left out of the yearbook. Two years ago, the school failed to include her in the class list.
School Apologizes After Backlash
After Poll’s public call out picked up attention, the school said it was “deeply saddened by the mistake.”
“Apologies have been made to the family, and we sincerely apologize to all others impacted by this error,” it added. “We are continuing to look at what has occurred, and to improve our practice.”
The district issued a similar statement, claiming it was looking into why this occurred to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
But Poll said this isn’t the same response her family received when they initially contacted school administrators. Instead, Poll told the Tribune that an employee at the school “blatantly said they didn’t know what we were expecting of them and there was nothing they could do.”
The school has since contacted them again “to make the situation right.”
Meanwhile, Poll stressed that her sister’s teammates had nothing to do with the decision, defending the girls as amazing friends who have done everything to make Arnold feel included.
In fact, they too were disappointed to see that she was not featured in the image or even named as a member of the team in the yearbook.
Arnold’s family decided to speak up about the issue so that this school and others can improve the ways they interact with and include students with disabilities. Different forms of exclusion happen at schools across the country, and this story has prompted other parents of kids with disabilities to share similar experiences.
This kind of thing happens all the time. I can't count the number of times our son has been excluded, or nearly excluded, from events and pictures and related social activities in his 8 years of school. I know this fury.— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) June 16, 2021
A staff attorney at the Disability Law Center of Utah told the Tribune that it receives about 4,000 complaints each year. Some complaints stemmed from students with disabilities being separated into other classrooms without their peers. Others include name-calling or not allowing students on a team or in a club.
Thankfully, Arnold has not let this situation bring her down. According to her family, she has already forgiven everyone involved and plans to continue cheering alongside her friends.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Salt Lake Tribune) (NBC News)
Ex-Shake Shack Manager Sues NYPD Over False Milkshake Poisoning Allegations
The former manager is accusing the police department and its unions of false arrest and defamation relating to the viral incident last summer.
Former Shack Shack Employee Sues One Year Later
The former manager of a New York City Shake Shack restaurant who was falsely accused of poisoning several law enforcement officers’ milkshakes last summer is now suing the city’s police department, its unions, and individual officers.
On June 15, 2020, three officers monitoring the anti-racism protests in Lower Manhattan entered a Shake Shack location for milkshakes, which they later claimed had been poisoned, likely by bleach.
By the end of the night, investigators determined that no one had tampered with the drinks, and the New York Police Department declared there was “no criminality.” Police later said the officers were possibly sickened by a cleaning solution that had not been properly cleaned out of the machines, though Shake Shack claimed it did not find leaks of any foreign substances.
Before that lack of criminality was determined and while the inquiry was ongoing, the police unions and their leaders accused the Shake Shack workers of launching a targeted attack in a series of tweets, which were then shared and discussed widely on social media by prominent conservatives.
The resulting outcome was widespread condemnation and deleting of tweets. Now, almost exactly a year later, the former manager of that Shake Shack, Marcus Gilliam, has accused the parties involved of false arrest and defamation.
According to his lawsuit, the three officers — who are referred to as Officers Strawberry Shake, Vanilla Shake, and Cherry Shake — ordered the drinks via mobile app, meaning the employees could not have known cops placed the order.
Additionally, the documents state the order was “already packaged and waiting for pickup” when the officers arrived, making it impossible for Gilliam or any other employee to have added anything to the shakes when they saw the officers come in to claim them.
After the officers complained about the taste of the milkshakes and threw them out, Gilliam said he apologized and offered them vouchers for free replacements, which they accepted. However, they still told their Sergeant that Gilliam had put a “toxic substance” in their drinks, even though they had disposed of any evidence.
Claims of Wrongful Detainment
The court documents go on to say that another officer arrived and detained the employees, who cooperated with the officer’s investigation. That process included interviews, searches, and tests, which showed no evidence of bleach or other toxins.
The NYPD also conducted a review of security footage, which independently determined that none of the employees put any kind of toxic substances in the officer’s drinks.
Despite all that, and even after the three officers were released from a hospital “without ever showing symptoms,” the NYPD still arrested Gilliam and brought him into the precinct, the suit stated.
Once in the precinct, the former manager was allegedly “interrogated for approximately one to two hours” and detained for around three hours, putting the total time he was detained by police in both the store and the precinct at approximately five to six hours.
Gilliam’s attorney is arguing that the officers had no probable cause or warrants for his arrest. An arrest that the lawsuit says caused him to suffer “emotional and psychological damages and damage to his reputation,” as well as economic damages from legal fees and missed wages, for which he is seeking both punitive and monetary damages.
None of the defendants have responded to requests for comment from the media.