Raging Yosemite fire is one of largest in state history; Historic Mono Lake deal; Foster care system in crisis

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Rim Fire. Firefighters are making a stand today to save several communities in the path of the Rim Fire.

The blaze on the western edge of Yosemite has burned more than 230 square miles. But there has been some progress. The fire is 15 percent contained, up from seven percent yesterday evening.

At nearly 150,000 acres, the Rim Fire is one of the largest in California history. And it’s still growing. Thousands of people have been evacuated and nearly 5,000 structures are threatened.

Some of the more than 3,000 firefighters battling the flames are digging trenches and clearing brush this morning around Tuolumne City and nearby Sierra foothill communities.

Meanwhile, the flames have crossed the western edge of Yosemite and are edging closer to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the source of much of San Francisco’s drinking water and some of its power. Vicki Wright of the U.S. Forest Service says brisk winds and bone dry conditions have led to a perfect “fire storm,” so large that it’s creating it’s own weather.

Yosemite employees have been working to protect two groves of giant sequoias that are unique to the region. Normally, the massive trees are all-but fireproof. But officials say the Rim Fire is burning so hot that they are concerned the sequoias could be harmed.

Yosemite remains open, although some parts of the park have been closed off.

Overall, more than 8,000 firefighters are battling at least dozen wildfires in California. CNN

Mono Lake. The DWP Power Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a settlement that would repair damage to Mono Lake and end one of the state’s longest running environmental disputes. The deal calls for the DWP to attach a $15 million gate to an existing dam on a creek that feeds into Mono Lake. The gate would release pulses of water designed to mimic natural flood cycles and restore trout populations. The DWP would be allowed to export some water to the city of L.A. to pay for the gate project. The settlement involves state Department of Fish and Wildlife and environmental groups. It comes two decades after Los Angeles was ordered to reduce the amount of water it had been diverting from local creeks that feed Mono Lake. L.A. Times

Foster care crisis. A high-profile child abuse case has apparently contributed to a spike in calls to an abuse hotline in L.A. County, and an increase in the number of children entering protective care. The sudden jump has led to a shortage of beds in the county foster care system and more children being diverted to what are called “holding rooms” as social workers try to place them with families. State officials have given the county until Wednesday to fix the problem or face possible fines. Since the death of 8-year-old Palmdale boy Gabriel Fernandez in May, nearly 600 children were diverted to holding rooms – and more than 100 have been kept longer than the state imposed 24-hour limit. Fernandez’ mother and her boyfriend have been charged in his death. L.A. Times

Freeway pollution. Starting next year, local air quality regulators will begin monitoring pollution levels near major freeways. The goal is to gather information to determine health risks faced by the estimated one million Southern Californians who live within 300 feet of a freeway. The project will begin with air pollution monitors at four sites. Scientists have long linked air pollution from freeway traffic to a variety of health ailments, such as heart disease asthma and bronchitis. If the monitors show a higher than expected health risk near freeways, local officials could take a more aggressive stance on emission controls and limiting development near busy transit corridors. L.A. Times

Medical ethics. Two U.C. Davis neurosurgeons have resigned after the school found that they violated academic guidelines when they intentionally infected brain cancer patients with a bowel bacteria as part of an experimental treatment. One of the doctors to step down is Paul Muizelaar, the head of the university’s neurosurgery department and – at more than $900,000 per year – one of the highest paid employees in the U.C. system. The doctors say the treatment was sound and that they were trying to prolong the life of three desperately ill patients. But two patients died soon after the treatment and the university paid out more than $800,000 in lawsuits. State health officials also fined the U.C. Davis Medical Center $50,000 dollars. Sacramento Bee