Southern California breaking news and trends

Brush fire burns off 101 Freeway in Ventura County, causes traffic nightmare

Photo by Justin Mayer/@JMayer via Twitter

Brush fire is seen near the 101 Ventura Freeway near Camarillo.

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A view of the traffic backup on the Ventura Freeway due to the fire.

Firefighters in Ventura County have a brush fire in the Conejo Grade near the 101 Freeway fully contained.

Ventura Fire spokesman Tom Kruschke said the fire did not threaten nearby homes, but it did creat a traffic nightmare along the 101 Freeway.

More than 75 firefighters were on the scene, along with two air tankers. Earlier, Kruschke had said crews were concerned that the steep terrain and high temperatures might slow containment.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


Hearing delay for UCLA professor Patrick Harran charged in lab fire death of researcher

Damian Dovarganes/AP

UCLA organic chemistry professor, Patrick Harran appears for his arraignment at Los Angeles Superior Criminal Courts building in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 11, 2012. Harran is being charged in connection with a laboratory fire that killed a staff research assistant at UCLA in December 2008.

The arraignment hearing for a UCLA professor charged in the death of a researcher has been postponed again.

KPCC’s Corey Moore was at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles on Friday morning where accused organic chemistry professor Patrick Harran appeared briefly with his attorneys before an L.A. County Superior Court judge.

The judge added another delay to a series of pushes. The hearing isx now scheduled for later this month.

Harran is charged in the 2008 death of 23-year-old researcher Sheri Sangji who was fatally burned in a lab fire. Sangji was not wearing protective gear when a chemical she was handling ignited.

Both the professor and UCLA face felony criminal charges. Moore says a plea deal is reportedly being negotiated, but neither side would offer comment on the case.


Rickie Lee Fowler murder/arson trial begins in San Bernardino

Wildfires Arson Murder

Kevork Djansezian/AP

Oct. 30, 2003: A view from a burned out home showing a pine tree forest and homes which were consumed by the Old Fire as it roared through the community of Cedar Glen in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. A grand jury indicted Rickie Fowler on Tuesday Oct. 20, 2009, on five counts of murder for this 2003 wildfire in Southern California that destroyed about 1,000 homes and was linked to a half-dozen heart attack deaths.

Opening statements in the murder/arson trial of Rickie Lee Fowler -- the California man accused of lighting a deadly 2003 wildfire -- started Monday with the defendant appearing in shackles after initially refusing to come to court.

Prosecutors say Fowler ignited the blaze dubbed the "Old Fire" in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

91,000-acres burned, 1,000 homes were destroyed and five residents suffered fatal heart attacks. Fowler is charged with five counts of murder for those deaths.

Suspected early in the fire investigation, authorities were not able to press charges until six years later. If conviced, Fowler could face the the death penalty

The defendant also faces additional felony charges of forcible sodomy in a separate case. Last summer he allegedly raped a fellow inmate at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, where he is currently serving a nine-year sentence for an unrelated burglary conviction. 


Pier 29 in San Francisco suffers roof collapse in four-alarm fire

pier 29

Photo by @colerise via Twitter

"Pier 29 fire! Roof collapsing," reads the accompanying message by @colerise via Twitter.

The Mercury News is reporting that firefighters are at the scene of a four-alarm blaze at Pier 29 in San Francisco. 

The fire was reported at about 1:50 p.m., and responders are working to extinguish the situation from the outside. No injuries have been reported. 

Photos via Twitter show Pier 29, the future site of America's Cup, suffering at least a partial roof collapse in the incident. The site is expected to central to the activities of the 2013 race, and construction has been ongoing at the location.

Story developing.


Wildfire warning: A 'red flag' blows in the dry SoCal wind

Mercer 1111

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

This Aug. 30, 2009 file photo shows a deer escaping a wildfire in the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles.

Gusty winds and dry air have created a perfect storm for fire weather in the Los Angeles/Oxnard region prompting the National Weather Service to issue an urgent "red flag warning" on Monday. The Antelope Valley and foothills are officially on alert beginning at noon, and continuing into Tuesday evening.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection keeps a list of current major fire incidents on its website, and also posts updates via its official CAL Fire Twitter accounts.

The Los Angeles Fire Department has a preparedness guide and action plan to help protect your home, your family and yourself, in the event of a disasterous wind-driven wildfire.

Lisa Brenner can be reached via Twitter @lisa_brenner