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10 Dead As California Fire Becomes Deadliest Of The Year, San Diego Beaches, Parks And Restaurants Are Open, But Playgrounds Remain Closed, San Diego Weekend Arts Events: Blues, Douglass Versus Lincoln, And Remembering Voz Alta

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CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Above: Patrick Kenefick, left, and Dana Williams, both of Mill Valley, Calif., record the darkened Golden Gate Bridge covered with smoke from wildfires Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.

The terrible toll of California's wildfires became more evident as 10 were reported dead and others missing. Plus, while much else in San Diego has been allowed to gradually reopen amid the pandemic, playgrounds appear to be closed indefinitely. And our weekend arts and culture picks include the San Diego Blues Fest and North Coast Rep's new production of “Necessary Sacrifices.”

Speaker 1: 00:01 Fires here and across the state, take a toll on firefighters

Speaker 2: 00:04 Because of just extreme fire activity. Those firefighters are having to work 24 48, sometimes even 72 hours straight

Speaker 1: 00:13 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition.

Speaker 2: 00:24 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:24 When and how will San Diego's playgrounds reopened? If it's safe to go to a restaurant that's serving beer where you can hang out inside and drink with your friends and linger for several hours, it is certainly safe for your kid to go down the slide, a mountain hike to honor nine 11 and more coming up on our weekend. Preview, stay with us for midday edition. It's coming up next

Speaker 1: 01:00 Milder than expected. Weather has helped firefighters make progress against the Valley fire burning in San Diego's East County. The fire is now in its seventh day. It's burned more than 17,600 acres and destroyed 30 homes. Fire officials say the blaze is now nearly 40% contained and they hope cooler weekend. Temperatures will help them increase containment, but the situation is not so hopeful. In other areas of the state where massive fires are burning case in point a combination of 37 fires around to Hayma County called the August complex. Fire has grown to 471,000 acres, the largest ever recorded in this state. Johnny Mae is Daniel Berlanti. He's assistant deputy director of Cal fire. He oversees many of the States fire prevention programs and Daniel, welcome to the program. Thank you. What kinds of weather conditions would be the best for firefighters here in San Diego this weekend as they work to increase that containment and then hit hotspots within the footprint of the fire?

Speaker 2: 02:05 Well, we are looking forward to, and what we are forecasting is to see actually an onshore flow. These are winds coming from the ocean. Uh, that's not only going to bring us some cooler temperatures and really kind of return us back to, to normal. Um, but it also will increase the humidity. And when we have increased humidity, uh, that too allows a firefighters and opportunity to make good progress because typically our fire activity, the fire behavior really starts to, uh, to moderate.

Speaker 1: 02:30 What are you hearing about weather conditions around some of California's biggest fires are those winds and temperatures going to improve this weekend

Speaker 2: 02:38 Across the state, we are going to continue to see a return to normal temperatures for this time of year. And even in fact, some cooler temperatures in many areas. So this is a welcome site. After, you know, we have seen just record breaking temperatures when a number of these fires broke out, that was combined then with gusty winds, both in Northern California and down in, in, in California, it was not as strong as it was a predicted, but those winds were strong enough to fan a number of fires, including the Valley fire. Like you mentioned, again, those winds have died down the last several days. That's allowed our crews to make real good progress

Speaker 1: 03:12 That at least is some good news. So give us an overview, if you would, about how many major fires are burning and the types of damage they've done, for instance, the North complex blaze.

Speaker 2: 03:23 Yeah, well across California, including the Valley fire in San Diego, we are battling 28 major wildfires and complexes. As you mentioned, the, you give the August complex in to Hayma County, which is a well North of Sacramento is actually made up of several fires, but being managed as one. So 28 major incidents right now burning in California, uh, and that has got over nearly 15,000 firefighters right now on the front lines battling those fires. Now we are making real good progress. I mean, containment is up on a number of fronts, a number of the fires in the last 24 hours. We've seen, uh, little to no growth, uh, Valley fire, for example, in San Diego County containment up 7%, the North complex, which you mentioned, uh, in, uh, the Northern part of California near Lake Oroville, uh, outside the community of Chico, uh, that fire, uh, as well, we did not see, uh, very much growth about 5,000 acres. Uh, but, uh, in total it's, you know, been holding it just over 250,000 acres. And so with the decrease in the winds, uh, on that fire, even though it was able to a lot of destruction, firefighters making good progress and just touching on the destruction, the North complex, obviously we know we've got about 2000, uh, homes and buildings that were destroyed by the fire, but all in total, uh, so far in all of these fires, we have seen significant damage. In fact, over 3,900 structures have been destroyed in the past month.

Speaker 1: 04:52 And how many Californians have lost their lives in these fires?

Speaker 2: 04:56 Sadly, this has been a deadly month for wildfires across California. The past month 20 people have died in these fires in the North complex, up in Butte County, uh, a record 10, uh, have already been confirmed in the Sheriff's department, continuing to search for the possibility of more, uh, the North complex with, with 10 people now being confirmed. It has hit the records. It is now the 10th deadliest fire in our state's history.

Speaker 1: 05:22 What's the situation like for firefighters on the front lines they've been going after these fires straight for a couple of weeks. Now,

Speaker 2: 05:30 Many firefighters have been on duty for well over a month, uh, in, in many cases, uh, because of just extreme fire activity, those firefighters are having to work 24 48, sometimes even 72 hours straight. Uh, but many firefighters have been really responding to one fire after another, after another. Now the, the major activity really picked up on, uh, August 15th. That's when we had a significant lightning siege across much of Northern California. But even before that, we had several weeks of large fires down in the LA basin. Uh, and so again, many firefighters being on the front lines for well over a month. And unfortunately we are just now getting into really the, the time period when we see our largest and our most damaging wildfires. And so the fact that we have had firefighters on for so long, the fact that we've had so many destructive and enormously large fires, it's not a good sign of what may be to come. Yeah,

Speaker 1: 06:25 I was going to ask you, this is relatively early in the States fire season. So what does the rest of the season look like?

Speaker 2: 06:31 Well, right now, while we are predicting and above normal potential for large fires, across many areas of California, including a much of San Diego and Southern California and that above normal potential will act, we're really extend, uh, through the year all the way into November and December. And so, you know, we're going to continue to be on high alert. We'll continue to, you know, be prepared for the next four months. But you know, we, we always look forward to the winter months, but really in California, even the winter months have become part of the fire season.

Speaker 1: 07:06 I've been speaking with Daniel, Berland assistant deputy director of Cal fire and Daniel, thank you very much for speaking with us. Thank you while much else in San Diego has been allowed to gradually re-open bars, restaurants, gyms, the zoo, even museums, playgrounds are still sitting vacant with caution tape around them. KPBS investigative reporter, Claire triglyceride tried to find out what's going on with the regions, swings and slides.

Speaker 3: 07:39 We all have that thing. We miss most from our pre pandemic life for four year old James McCann. It's the playground near the small condo. He shares with his parents in university Heights. We drive right here sometimes really walk here, ask him why he can't go there anymore. And he answers with the euphemism his parents were using until he caught on, because that thing going around, the thing going around now, he's left playing baseball and dancing in the grass at trolley barn park. Still he's optimistic. [inaudible] when might that be? When nothing stops, he might be right, unlike everything else, playgrounds aren't part of any phased reopening plans at the local or state level. The decision rests with the California department of public health, which has said parks can be open with restrictions. One of them is that playgrounds stay closed. A spokesman declined repeated interview requests, but answered questions over email. He said playgrounds haven't opened because quote, the possible large number of touching the same surface, particularly younger children who are less likely to practice hand hygiene and wear masks, but multiple doctors and infectious disease experts tell KPBS that playgrounds are far safer than indoor activities citing a growing body of evidence. That COVID-19 is much more likely to be passed when breathing and talking, not by touching surfaces.

Speaker 1: 09:20 If it's safe to go to a restaurant that's serving beer where you can hang out inside and drink with your friends and linger for several hours, it is certainly safe for your kid to go down and slide, right?

Speaker 3: 09:29 Becca fielding Miller, an epidemiologist at UC San Diego bristled at the idea that bars and restaurants have been able to reopen indoors at limited capacity while playgrounds, which are completely outdoor spaces stay closed.

Speaker 1: 09:44 This is a pretty palpable demonstration of who is and is not at the table in these conversations about what reopens. So I think that it kind of speaks volumes about priorities and who is there to advocate that a relatively low risk environment that benefits families and families with young children and would disproportionately go to support poor and marginalized families has been, I mean, almost forgotten about

Speaker 3: 10:17 Dr. Mark Sawyer and infectious disease specialist at radio children's hospital says he worries more about kids not getting exercise and not socializing. Then the small chance they pick up the virus from a play structure that sits in the sun all day.

Speaker 4: 10:32 We clearly have spent the last two decades trying to get kids to be physically active. I'm sure that some folks have challenged keeping their kids physically active in the current situation.

Speaker 3: 10:43 Well, the playground rules apply across the state. A few cities appear to not be enforcing them with the same vigor as San Diego. For example, photosynthetic KPBS from Huntington beach and Sacramento show no yellow caution tape or signs saying playgrounds are closed. Meanwhile, in San Diego police don't spend any time writing mass citations, but playground closures are enforced with caution tape, orange fencing and even roadblocks signs padlock to the top of slides and city park staff are under orders to rewrap a playground and caution tape. If it's torn down, says a city spokesman that takes up to an hour and given that the city has 279 playgrounds, that's a lot of time spent re wrapping caution tape. The epidemiologist fielding Miller calls it

Speaker 1: 11:38 Theater of closing playgrounds is a way to demonstrate that something is being done. Um, that affects people who don't have the time or the voice to say anything about it.

Speaker 3: 11:49 Some families KPBS spoke to admit they're beginning to ignore

Speaker 5: 11:54 The caution tape. Kids needed the park. Jessica Pruitt brought her two kids and nephew to central Avenue, mini park in city Heights. One afternoon, last week, I need to get their energy. Like they need, they need this. I need this for them. Um, so I mean, I tore the tape down last time. We're probably going to have doing it again early on. Pruitt says she was committed to following the rules, but her resolve has weakened. I told him about the tape that we're not supposed to go on it and about the coronavirus. And it's just, if you take him to the park and they see the tape, they're not going to care about the tape. They're just going to want to play. Other parents have taken a different approach saying that while they may not agree with the rule, they don't want to teach their kids, that they can choose what rules to follow and what rules to break dance here.

Speaker 5: 12:45 Unfortunately, for James McCann, that parenting group includes his mom, Liz, you know, we're trying very hard to use some of this as like a learning experience to a point about how we're doing this to keep other people safe and we need to do things to stay clean. And you know, so yeah, I'm, I'm not trying to raise a little scofflaw Claire Tresor KPBS news. After an inquiry from KPBS state assembly, woman Loraina Gonzalez who represents parts of San Diego said she planned to write a letter to the governor's office, asking what the plan would be for reopening place structures.

Speaker 5: 13:36 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This weekend, you can catch a virtual play featuring Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas. Fill your afternoon with the sound of blues or take a self guided civic-minded exterior art tour. We also have a few recommendations for honoring the anniversary of nine 11. Joining me with the weekend preview is KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon, Evans, and Julia. Welcome. Hi, Maureen. Today is the 19th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. What are some local ways we can honor that without being able to get, get together? Yeah, there's a few things you can do on your own time. Uh, runners and walkers around the world are doing a 5k and then posting online with the hashtag nine 11 heroes run and another local hiking option. If you can find a time that's not too hot or not too crowded, it's fall bricks, Montserrat mountain. It's a steep three mile round trip hike, but there are 18 trail markers along the trail that represent every 10 floors on the former world trade center towers. And it's really a beautiful up there. And even though,

Speaker 1: 14:53 So you can make a trip like that any weekend, this weekend would be especially meaningful. Okay. So what's going on in the theater this weekend.

Speaker 5: 15:04 So North coast repertory theaters necessary sacrifices just opened virtually. This is a pretty new play and it's a two person cast featuring Hawthorne James in an intense portrayal of Frederick Douglas alongside Ray chambers, playing Abraham Lincoln. It's set in a series of confrontations between those two leaders. It's kind of hard not to get that refrain from Hamilton in the room where it happened in your head thinking about this one, and it was staged and filmed as a full production and you can stream it online. It's kind of a nice option. If you're tired of zoom theater, here's a clip for you.

Speaker 1: 15:44 We have lived by your side for two centuries and you are as ignorant of who we really are as ever black men and women hung from lampposts. And that was in the North. Why not simply go and save yourselves from the trouble because I was sweat and blood all mixed in this earth every bit, as much as yours. Wow. That was a scene

Speaker 5: 16:20 North coast. Repertories necessary

Speaker 1: 16:23 Sacrifices. And it's streaming on demand through October 11th. Also this weekend is the annual San Diego blues festival. How are they adapting to the pandemic?

Speaker 5: 16:36 Yeah, this year is their 10th anniversary and it's a bit bittersweet because they can't hold the festival in person, but they put together a great two hour set the Saturday afternoon and they're raising money to support the San Diego food bank. They have local Whitney Shea who was featured in our summer music series earlier this summer. Plus the Bay areas, Tommy Costa and the painkillers Southern Avenue, watermelon slim, and then the Mississippi based mr. Sip here is mr. Sips jump the broom.

Speaker 6: 17:18 [inaudible] take you down 55 here, baby. Come on, baby. Please marry me. That was mr. Sip. Part of the virtual San Diego blues.

Speaker 5: 17:43 You can stream the festival online tomorrow and finally hear you have

Speaker 1: 17:50 A self guided art's recommendation for us.

Speaker 5: 17:53 Yeah, so as you know, this week is the first annual San Diego design week. It's going on three Sunday. And while there's plenty of online panels, even some in person exhibition and show experiences, there's also a lot of self guided stuff. And a lot of it's viewable from the outside, including an multisite exhibition called get out the vote. A bunch of arts organizations in town like bread and salts and burial, Logan art produce in North park. [inaudible] art, visual art gallery, and the museum of contemporary art downtown have an exhibition of poster art related to empowering the women's vote. These are all by contemporary women, designers and artists, and they're all viewable on exterior walls or through the windows. So you can really take your time with it and do a little driving tour of San Diego art spaces.

Speaker 1: 18:48 San Diego design week runs through Sunday. You can check out the, get out the vote poster campaign on the exterior walls of bread and salt art produce and the museum of contemporary art, San Diego for more arts and culture events, or to sign up for the weekly KPBS arts newsletter go to kpbs.org/arts. I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon Evans, Julia, thank you. Thank you. Maureen.

Speaker 1: 19:21 Mid day edition says goodbye to produce a Marissa Cabrera midday would not be the program. It is without Marissa's great ideas and hard work over the last eight years before that she was essential in the production of KPBS morning edition news breaks. Marissa has helped guide midday through changes of format and personnel and kept us on top of the big stories and trends along the way she's made the show better. She's made all of us better at what we do. Marissa is journeying the marketplace staff to produce that shows new podcast, make me smart with Kai and Molly. So Marissa, we wish you good luck and thank you so much. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh have a great weekend.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.