California Today: California Today: A Rising Death Toll From WildfiresOn October 12, 2017 by Ilene
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A full accounting of the loss of life in Northern California’s wildfires has been agonizingly slow to emerge.
The death toll stood at 23 late Wednesday, officials said, up from 17 a day before.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people are reported missing. What proportion of those might be casualties was unclear. But officials said many of the reports are likely a consequence of severed cellphone coverage.
During a news conference on Wednesday, Rob Giordano, the Sonoma County sheriff, said teams had not yet been deployed to search the rubble for bodies.
Strong winds kicked up again on Wednesday, forcing new evacuations. Altogether, 22 wildfires were burning across the state.
“We’re trying to save lives right now,” Sheriff Giordano said. “We’re putting our resources into getting people out.”
A handful of victims have been identified.
• Sara and Charles Rippey, who were 98 and 100 years old, died together at their home in Napa.
They were childhood sweethearts who traveled the world and had five children.
“The fact that they went together is probably what they would have wanted,” the couple’s son, Mike Rippey, told The Times.
• Family members said Christina Hanson, 27, died at her home in Santa Rosa.
Ms. Hanson was wheelchair bound with spina bifida. Her stepmother told the San Francisco Chronicle that she loved music and volunteered regularly.
• Officials said a woman fleeing a fire in the Yuba County foothills died when her car swerved off the road.
The Sacramento Bee spoke to neighbors of the woman, whom they identified as Sandy Picciano, 77. They said she liked to tend to neighborhood animals.
• The family of Linda Tunis, 69, a resident of the Journey’s End mobile home park in Santa Rosa, told The Associated Press that her remains had been found in the debris of her home.
Her daughter said she had loved her family, bingo and the beach.
The search by family and friends for missing loved ones has been complicated by the chaos of the evacuations this week.
Tens of thousands of people scattered during the firestorm. Some ended up in hospitals. Many more have packed dozens of shelters across Sonoma County and beyond.
Friends and family members have been fanning out to those locations, distributing fliers and issuing pleas for information on social media.
“My heart is being ripped out and I don’t know what else to do,” Rachael Ingram said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
She was looking for a close friend, Mike Grabow, 40, whose home and truck in Santa Rosa were incinerated.
Reached by phone, Ms. Ingram said she had been searching for him nonstop — by foot, phone and internet.
It wasn’t like him to go silent, she said, “He’s got a huge community of friends.”
Late Wednesday there was still no word.
More on the Wildfires
• “We’ve got guys who have been working 80 hours straight.” Firefighters have been stretched to their limits. [The New York Times]
• “Thank God we left”: We asked people to share how the wildfires affected them. Here are some of their stories. [The New York Times]
• The city of Calistoga in Napa Valley turned into a ghost town after approaching flames forced thousands to flee. [SFGate.com]
• Wildfires often break out in California in October. This year, the fires are worse. [The New York Times]
• Hot, dry winds are fanning the flames. Climate change may be making those winds even drier. [The New York Times]
• Smoke from the Northern California fires is choking the Central Valley. [Fresno Bee]
• Investigators are looking at Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power lines as a possible cause of wildfires. [San Francisco Chronicle]
• The Daily 360: Join the Hurley family as they go through the ashes of their home in Santa Rosa. [The New York Times]
(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)
• Interviews and internal company records show that Harvey Weinstein’s company has been grappling with his behavior for at least two years. [The New York Times]
• Tom Hanks, on Harvey Weinstein: “Just because you’re rich and famous and powerful doesn’t mean you aren’t in some ways a big fat ass. Excuse me, take away ‘fat.’” [Opinion | The New York Times]
• Progressives are trying to draft a challenger to Senator Dianne Feinstein. Could Kevin de Leon, the leader of the state Senate, be the one? [LA Weekly]
• The girl in the No. 8 jersey scored a soccer goal. Her parents were some 600 miles away, on a getaway to Las Vegas. Her mother never came back. [The New York Times]
• Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that gives juveniles convicted of murder a chance at leaving prison. [The Associated Press]
• She made eight calls to 911. Police officers visited three times. But it didn’t prevent Cecilia Lam’s senseless killing at the hands of her boyfriend. [San Francisco Chronicle]
• For three days, a college coach from Texas was allowed to watch the Golden State Warriors practice up close. Not everything was complicated, he learned. [The New York Times]
• “Billionaires don’t get to decide when and how Californians reach the beach.” [Opinion | Los Angeles Times]
And Finally …
A painter, a statistician, a writer, a computer scientist and an opera director.
The California-based winners of the 2017 MacArthur “genius” awards run the gamut of creative pursuits.
The awards are designed to honor “exceptionally creative people” and include a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000.
Of 24 recipients this year, five live in the Golden State.
Here’s a look at their work:
• Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 34, is a Nigerian-born painter in Los Angeles known for large-scale collage works that express transnational identity.
“I use my work to explore the spaces where disparate cultures overlap, really mining my story,” she said in a video published by the MacArthur Foundation.
• Emmanuel Candès, 47, is a Stanford mathematician and statistician who works on compressed sensing, which involves using small amounts of data to reconstruct high-resolution images and sounds.
His discoveries have implications for everything from medical imaging to intelligence gathering.
• Viet Thanh Nguyen, 46, is a novelist and a professor of English and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
He won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel “The Sympathizer.” Our critic said the book compels us to look at the Vietnam War and its aftermath in a new light.
• Stefan Savage, 48, is a computer scientist U.C. San Diego who has offered new insights into cybersecurity, including techniques to thwart email spammers.
The MacArthur Foundation praised him for “tackling problems of immediate, real-world importance.”
• Yuval Sharon, 37, is an opera director known for his pioneering work at The Industry, an experimental Los Angeles company he founded in 2012.
He has staged operas in train stations and on highways.
Next summer, he’ll be the first American to stage Wagner at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany.
Here’s the full list of MacArthur fellows.
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The California Today columnist, Mike McPhate, is a third-generation Californian — born outside Sacramento and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He lives in Los Osos. Follow him on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.