L.A. marks two decades since Northridge Earthquake

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 The Northridge Earthquake hit 20 years ago today. The temblor struck at 4:31 a.m. on January 17, 1994 – leaving 57 people dead, flattening the 10 Freeway and causing more than $20 billion in property damage, at the time the costliest U.S. disaster ever. Are we better prepared for major quake now then we were then? Most scientists say yes, but with a big caveat: our better understanding of quake geology and construction has not always translated into action.Several events will be held in Southern California today to look back at the devastation of the Northridge Earthquake and to try to convince people to get prepared before the next one hits. A few days ago, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a new partnership with the U.S. Geological Society to tackle earthquake safety in L.A. The mayor says the effort will focus on strengthening vulnerable buildings and ensuring the safety of our telecommunications system and water supply…colbyfireFirefighters have been setting backfires this morning as they continue to make headway against the 1,700-acre acre-plus Colby Fire burning in the Angeles Forest above Azusa and Glendora. The blaze is 30 percent contained. The toll now stands at five houses destroyed, 17 others damaged and three people with minor injuries, including two firefighters. At least 10 people were left homeless when the fire tore through rental units on the grounds of an historic estate once owned by the Singer sewing machine family. Meanwhile, three men who authorities say accidentally started the blaze with an illegal campfire are due in court this morning…It’s been a while since L.A. teachers have received a pay hike. But with the state economy on the mend and more money flowing to education, they say now’s the time for a raise, a big one! UTLA President Warren Fletchers says teachers will seek a 17.6 boost in pay over four years, with most of the increase coming at the beginning of the contract. The union also wants the district to return to staffing levels that were in place prior to the recession and to provide better job protections for teachers at low-performing schools. Fletcher says L.A. teachers have not received a raise for nearly seven years and have agreed to 16 furlough days to help LAUSD deal with budget cuts…School districts across California will have more leeway next year in deciding how to spend money targeted toward disadvantaged students.  The State School Board has voted unanimously to support new funding rules that give districts more discretion. About 300 parents, students, administrators, and officials weighed in at the meeting, including Governor Jerry Brown. His funding formula provides districts with additional money for low-income and non-English speaking students and foster children…exideAnd finally, the South Coast Air Quality Management District is seeking up to $40 million in penalties from the Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon for alleged air quality violations. The lawsuit says Exide has illegally emitted lead and arsenic and exposed more than 100,000 residents to a higher risk of cancer and other medical problems. Regulators are also seeking to stop Exide’s smelting operations until it can improve its air pollution control systems.