Plus: Doris Day house listed for $7.4 million, schools reopen for a price and N95 masks recalled.
I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in typically sunny Palm Springs, where the Snow Fire has made the skies dark and menacing. Here are some of today’s news highlights from the Golden State.
In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies
Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at age 87.
Ginsburg, who became the second of four female justices to be confirmed to the court after her nomination by President Bill Clinton in 1993, had overcome four bouts with pancreatic, lung and colon cancer dating back to 1999 but apparently wasn’t able to beat the most recent spread to her liver.
A long-time stalwart for equal rights, Ginsburg became a folk hero for the left – the subject of the award-winning documentary “RBG,” an opera, and the feature-length film “On the Basis of Sex.” Her praises were sung on the “Ruth Bader GinsBlog” and her initials emblazoned on “Notorious R.B.G.” T-shirts. She took great pride in a bobblehead celebrating the highlights of her career, and she helped to assemble a book of her opinions, dissents and writings entitled “My Own Words.”
The vacancy Ginsburg leaves provides President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans a rare opportunity to solidify conservative control of the court, perhaps for decades to come.
Firefighter battling El Dorado Fire dies
The story of the wildfire that was sparked by gender-reveal event pyrotechnics has taken a dramatic turn as the U.S. Forest Service said today that a firefighter who had been working to subdue the blaze has died.
The El Dorado Fire, which broke out Sept. 7 near Yucaipa and is 66% contained, has burned more than 20,000 acres.
Few details were available Friday afternoon; the cause of the firefighter’s death is under investigation, and the Forest Service would not immediately confirm whether the death occurred at the scene of the fire. The name of the firefighter is also being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and fellow firefighters during this time,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service said in a statement.
It was not known whether the family whose stunt sparked the fire would be held responsible for the death.
Snow Fire near Palm Springs grows to 2,500 acres
Fire crews worked through the night Thursday to defend the small, unincorporated community of Snow Creek, northwest of Palm Springs, from the Snow Fire, which authorities were alerted to earlier that afternoon in the 15900 block of Snow Creek Road. The blaze is burning between Cabazon and Whitewater in the San Jacinto Wilderness and so far has destroyed 2,500 acres.
The blaze was 0% contained as of this morning, according to a Cal Fire official, and had crept over peaks close to a mobile home community in the Windy Point area, called Santiago Sun Canyon Estates. An airplane dropped pink fire retardant onto the hills above.
In the afternoon, fire trucks were stationed in driveways of many of the homes in Snow Creek. The community is nestled just at the foot of the mountains. In some cases, the fire appeared to have burned very close to the homes, but none were damaged or destroyed, officials said.
Crews are also concerned that the blaze could burn toward the Windy Point community, Capt. Fernando Herrera said.
Snow Creek residents were issued an evacuation order Thursday evening as were residents of Windy Point and two nearby mobile home parks.
The fire burned downward and threatened Snow Creek, but crews “were able to hold the fire in check” overnight, Herrera said. No structures in the area have been damaged or destroyed, he said. About 450 homes in Snow Creek and Windy Point are currently threatened by the fire, Herrera said.
Meanwhile, along the Central Coast, a man who claims he set the Dolan Fire in order to draw attention away from five murders he committed will be undergoing a mental health evaluation at the request of his attorney.
The Dolan Fire has been burning for nearly a month, scorching more than 125,000 acres of forest in Big Sur, and a Fresno man, Ivan Geronimo Gomez, 30, was arrested Aug. 19 in connection with the blaze. At the time, he confessed to deputies that he had started the fire, and he was booked on a number of charges, including arson on forest land, cultivating marijuana, battery on a person, exhibiting a deadly weapon and throwing something at a vehicle intending to cause great bodily injury, according to the Monterey County Jail’s website.
However, investigators are still not certain the fire was deliberately set. And to date, no bodies have been found at the scene.
The Dolan Fire is one of 23 major fires currently burning in the state, according to Cal Fire’s incidents page. It began shortly after dry lightning lit several fires in the area, including the River Fire in Salinas.
Gomez’s attorney asked for a mental competence evaluation in a Sept. 9 procedural hearing, expressing doubt about his client’s ability to stand trial. The judge granted an order to evaluate Geronimo Gomez before proceeding further.
The Big Sur fire has now reached 125,000 acres and containment is holding steady at 40%. Fire behavior is expected to be minimal today due to mild predicted temperatures in the area and winds out of the northwest.
An update on the SQF Complex Fire: Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for Silver City, Mineral King by the Tulare County Sheriff, effective immediately.
Silver City is a seasonal recreation area that features nearly 40 cabins, a store, a restaurant and the Silver City Mountain Resort. Mineral King features two Sequoia National Park campgrounds, Atwell Mill Campground and Cold Springs Campground, with 61 tent campsites.
The SQF Complex Fire, which is made up of the Castle and Shotgun fires, has grown to 122,835 acres. Containment stands at 12% — it hasn’t moved in nearly a week.
California unemployment rate dropped
On the job front, government figures released today say that the Golden State’s unemployment rate was 11.4% in August, down from 13.5% in July. However, that number is not very impressive when compared with rates throughout the country. In fact, California’s unemployment rate is still among the worst in the nation as a result of its early and prolonged shutdowns, as well as its reliance on travel and tourism, which remain moribund.
California Employment Development Department reported that while the state added 101,900 payroll jobs in August, 2.13 million people are still unemployed.
5-year-olds summit Mount Shasta
On Sept. 6, 5-year-old Los Angeles-based twins Arabella and Matthew Adams set a record for being the youngest children to summit Mount Shasta.
According to parents Shaun and Nancy, the twins took their first hike in backpacks when they were 1 month old. Last year, at age 4, Arabella and Matthew set a record summiting Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, at 14,505 feet. They also climbed 14,246 foot White Mountain Peak, according to their father.
This year, the twins summited 14,026 foot Mount Langley, and on Sept. 5, they scaled all 14,179 feet of Mt. Shasta.
The two young “super hikers” are reportedly saving their money so they can one day climb Mount Everest.
Doris Day house listed for $7.4 million, schools reopen for a price, N95 masks recalled
Doris Day’s Carmel Valley home listed for $7.4 million. The Hollywood legend’s 8.62-acre estate, which overlooks Quail Lodge and Golf Course, has been listed Sotheby’s International Real Estate. All proceeds from the sale will benefit the actress’ charity, the Doris Day Animal Foundation.
L.A. schools are barred from reopening — unless parents can pay. While K-12 schools in L.A. are not allowed to be open at this time, many of them have opened anyway … for a price, which one professor has called “a major equity issue.”
California recalls N95 masks from Santa Clara company with $90 million state contract. It seems the global shortage of N95 masks, which are widely believed to offer the best protection from COVID-19, has led to large and expensive contracts with less-experienced manufacturers. One such company is now in jeopardy after the company’s respirators failed to pass muster with federal inspectors.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Mercury News