In the latest indication that this will be a long, smoky summer, three lightning-sparked wildfires burned unchecked through the Inyo National Forest on Saturday, forcing officials to shut down as much as 100 miles of Highway 395, the gateway to the Eastern Sierra Nevada.
Portions of Highway 395 remained closed Saturday evening as traffic was tied up for miles between Big Pine, to the north, and Pearsonville, to the south, according to the California Highway Patrol. In the middle, the flames licked at the western edge of the small town of Independence, where authorities had evacuated about 1,000 people, state officials said.
At least 400 firefighters were battling the blaze. There had been no reported injuries or deaths. At least 17,000 acres had been burned in the 2 million-acre Inyo National Forest.
The road closure raises the specter of a logistical nightmare today as tens of thousands of people try to get home to Southern California and the Central Valley after the July Fourth holiday. The highway lies on the Sierra spine and is an essential thoroughfare to a list of destinations that read like a California travel guide: Mammoth, Tahoe, the John Muir Wilderness, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.
Sandy Springs, Ga.
Karr arrested again, in domestic case
John Mark Karr, who made what turned out to be bogus claims of killing JonBenet Ramsey, was jailed Saturday in a domestic argument at his father’s house in suburban Atlanta.
Officers received a 911 call late Friday from the house about an argument between Karr, his girlfriend and his father.
Karr, who was arrested last summer in Thailand after making bizarre, detailed confessions in the 6-year-old beauty contestant’s death, was arrested in the domestic case shortly before midnight and charged with battery and obstruction.
Officers took Karr to a hospital after he complained of chest pains, and took him to jail late Saturday morning. No other details were immediately released.
Santa Ana, Calif.
Bus drivers strike over wage dispute
Bus drivers in a suburban Los Angeles county went on strike Saturday after the union representing them and the bus agency failed to agree on a new contract.
The strike means about 50 of more than 80 Orange County Transportation Authority bus routes will not be running, promising to create headaches for more than 200,000 people who use the system.
Contract talks stalled Friday night after transit agency negotiators said they did not have the authority to increase their offer without board approval. The agency’s board is not scheduled to meet until Monday.
The two sides were apparently only 1 percentage point apart on a wage increase. But last-minute wrangling over the financing of drivers’ pensions had also emerged as a sticking point.
Orange County is one of the most expensive places to live in California. Drivers currently make between $13.72 to $21.42 an hour.