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One crazy, Fiery Week in the Bay Area

Welcome to your week in Bay Area news. We’ll hit on some key stories that matter here and give you some ideas as to what to do to decompress after a week of crazy. Here goes…

Ghost Ship defendants take minimized plea deal

Max Harris and Derick Almena entered no contest plea deals Wednesday and avoided the looming July 16 trial date in the case of the Ghost Ship fire tragedy, as we reported here. Harris agreed to serve six years and Almena nine for the warehouse fire that claimed the lives of 36 people on Dec. 2, 2016. They will be formally sentenced following two days of impact statements read by families and friends of the victims on August 9 and 10. Although this will mark the end of the criminal case, it has been reported that some families will pursue additional civil suits.

Rallies, rallies, rallies: #FamiliesBelongTogether

Hundreds of thousands of people across the country took to the streets Saturday in what was billed as Families Belong Together rallies in response to the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” southern border immigration policy. The groups were specifically focused on the reunification of over 2,000 children that have been separated from their families during the automatic detention process and criminal proceedings dictated by the recent policy.

Here in the Bay, an estimated 30,000 turned out in San Francisco to march to City Hall. In Richmond, we reported that upwards of 2,000 people showed up at the West County Detention Facility where 200 U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainees are housed at any given time in an arrangement between the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service. The rally at the West County jail was the largest at that specific location; however, it is just the most recent in a string of protests there over the past year.

Two judges have dampened the administration’s hard-line policy with orders to reunite the separated children within 30 days, and that clock is ticking, and another that demands that authorities consider releasing asylum-seekers in lieu of detention. Trump’s response to the most recent judicial order is an ultimatum for immigrants: either leave with your children or be deported without them. In this reiteration of “zero tolerance”, the ability to request asylum is no longer an option.

War on the media reaches fatal heights

This story is not local, but it is important to every single person in this country. Five people were shot and killed and others were gravely injured in a shooting at the Capital Gazette office in Maryland on June 28. The shooter, Jarrod Ramos, is described by USA Today as an angry loner with a vendetta against the paper following an unsuccessful defamation suit in 2012. Although it is suspected that the shooting was an act of revenge, it has not gone unnoticed that Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric toward the media has emboldened people disposed to this sort of violence. The president has publicly declared a war on the media and has gone so far as to call all those in the industry, excluding Fox News, “enemies of the state.” Following the tragedy, Trump held a press conference that hypocritically called for a safe environment for journalists, although his words and actions in all other instances has been vitriolic. Many blame the Capital Gazette shooting on the administration’s relentless attack on media as “Fake News.”

Capital Gazette shooting victims. Photo courtesy of WLUK

The victims of this horrific tragedy are Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara, and to each one we hope you Rest in Power…

Massive fires turn the Bay sky orange

Smoke-filled, spice-like skies have been snowing ash all over the Bay due to the Pawnee and County fires burning their way through Lake Berryessa and Lake County areas this week. The Pawnee Fire, now 92 percent contained, has burned 15,000 acres northeast of Clearlake Oaks in Lake County, according to the most recent Cal Fire update.

Firefighters battle blaze that has burned 86,000 acres in County Fire. Photo courtesy of LA Times

The County Fire east of Lake Berryessa has been far less cooperative. The blaze remains only 30 percent contained and has already torn through 86,000 acres, causing widespread evacuations and anxiety. Located in both Yolo and Napa counties, the County Fire strikes a hauntingly similar tone after the mass destruction during last year’s apocalyptic fire season, leaving many in the Napa area without homes, schools and places of work to return to. KCRA reports that “3,400 fire personnel and 280 fire engines” have been mobilized to battle the flames as they hope the cooler temperatures and wind shifts will give them the upper hand.

Flames reach edge of Crystal Ranch Road in Concord, Calif. June 29, 2018. Photo by Nik Wojcik

An additional blaze in Concord off Ygnacio Valley Road caused the evacuation of approximately 1,500 people from the Crystyl Ranch and Montecito neighborhoods Friday. It was determined that a malfunctioning truck backfired and caused a spark that lit the dry brush covering the hillside. Thankfully, Contra Costa Fire was able to gain control and lift the evacuation order a little after 10 p.m. when the blaze was approximately 85 percent contained, as we previously reported.

Weird shit to do on your day off

Viva la Frida! There’s all sorts of way you can celebrate Frida Kahlo’s birthday this weekend. In Walnut Creek, you can hit up the Bedford Gallery for “The World of Frida” exhibit grand opening Saturday. You’ll get a sensory treat with art and fashion shows that reflect the legendary painter’s unique style and if you’ve got a brow pencil ready, feel free to enter the lookalike contest. And everybody gets a button!

Frida Kahlo. Photo courtesy of A&E Biographies

If you need a little beat to get you going, head down to the Alameda County Fairground in your lowrider to see the “rock-funk-Latin-jazz-R&B” OGs of War live in concert Saturday. You know you’re a “Cisco Kid” deep down in your soul.

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.