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Explosive fires sweep through Southern California, driving 100,000 from their homes

Two major wildfires raged in Southern California on Tuesday, forcing almost 100,000 residents to flee the area.

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Two major wildfires raged in Southern California on Tuesday as fierce winds continued to push the blazes toward populated zones, forcing almost 100,000 residents to flee the area under emergency evacuation orders.

The two fires in Orange County have already burned nearly 20,000 acres and doubled in size overnight, deluging the region in smoke and ash while further illustrating the unsparing nature of the 2020 fire season in California, which has seen massive wildfires rage across the west.

The Silverado Fire has already burned at least 11,200 acres after breaking out in the Santa Ana Mountains on Monday morning and is only 5 percent contained. The blaze near the city of Irvine has been fueled by strong Santa Ana winds, with the National Weather Service warning of gusts between 50 and 60 miles per hour.

Roughly 750 firefighters have been dispatched to the region to fight the Silverado Fire. On Monday, two firefighters were severely burned while battling the fire, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. The firefighters, ages 26 and 31, remain in critical condition and were placed on ventilators after suffering second- and third-degree burns across half their bodies.

“This is tough for me, tough for all my firefighters and certainly for the families of my two injured firefighters,” OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy said during a news conference. “They’re gravely injured … We’re doing all we can for them.”

While the cause of the blaze remains unclear, Southern California Edison is investigating whether its electrical equipment caused the fire, which broke out on state land. In a report to the state Public Utilities Commission, the company noted that a “lashing wire” connecting a telecommunications line to a support cable could have struck the 12,000-volt primary conducting line above, resulting in the fire breaking out.

Last month, the private utility company filed a report that noted its equipment was also part of an investigation into the cause of the Bobcat Fire, which consumed over 115,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest near Pasadena and remains active after burning for more than a month.

The Blue Ridge Fire later erupted on Monday in the Santa Ana Canyon, an infamous wind tunnel, and immediately spread from the west end of Corona toward Yorba Linda and the city’s Hidden Hills community, forcing the evacuation of around 5,000 homes.

By Tuesday morning, the blaze had grown to 8,000 acres and was 0 percent contained.

The ferocious Santa Ana winds – which saw gusts of 80 mph and even 96 mph in high-elevation zones such as the San Gabriel Mountains – are expected to die down on Tuesday afternoon, potentially offering an opportunity for firefighters to gain an upper hand on the out-of-control blazes.

The wind has also blanketed the streets of East L.A. and parts of the San Gabriel Valley with ash from the nearly-contained Bobcat fire. The National Weather Service issued a red flag across multiple counties through Tuesday afternoon.

“We have very strong winds and very low humidities, and that’s causing ideal conditions for a very strong Santa Ana event with high fire danger,” National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet told Los Angeles Times. “This is very typical for this time of year, but this one is very strong.”

Experts have warned that the worsening fire season in California and across the West is connected to climate change, with carbon dioxide emissions and other heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels directly leading to warmer and drier conditions.

In 2020 alone, California has seen fires burn over 4.1 million acres, destroying 10,488 homes and other structures and leading to the deaths of at least 31 people.

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter

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The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.

However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.

In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.

It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.

The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.

Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.

The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.

The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.

The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.

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