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Butte evacuation map gets use | Firefighter mental health | Proposed gun restrictions

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The latest North State and California news on our airwaves for Friday, June 17.

Butte County sheriff warns of potentially dire fire season

Sheriff’s officials in Butte County have already used the county’s new evacuation zone map — in which every community is zoned out — several times this fire season.

Sheriff Kory Honea said the system is meant to save critical moments during wildfire evacuations — both for county residents in evacuation zones and first responders identifying areas under threat. But he offers a word of caution.

“There are no guarantees that any system is going to allow you to systematically and calmly orchestrate an evacuation,” Honea said. “The fact of the matter is most evacuations by nature become chaotic.”

Honea said Butte County’s recent history with wildfire is a good indicator for what the county is facing for the foreseeable future.

In 2018, the Camp Fire swept through Paradise, Concow, Magalia and Butte Creek Canyon, killing 85 people. And in 2020, the North Complex fire devastated the communities of Berry Creek and Feather Falls, killing 16 people.

— Andre Byik, NSPR

The trauma of fighting California’s wildfires 

As wildfires become increasingly severe in California, there’s growing concern over the mental health of the firefighters who must face them.

CalMatters reporter Julie Cart wrote about the problem for her recent series “Trial by Fire.” Cart said there’s still a severe lack of data on firefighter mental health, but anecdotal evidence points to an ongoing crisis.

“In addition to the risk, and the personal risk and danger involved, they’re just ... they're tired,” she said. “[Firefighters] see things that a lot of us would hope to never see. They have to process trauma, they don't have time to do it because there's very little downtime.”

Cart said that according to Cal Fire, the number of employees reaching out for mental health support has risen over the last decade, but it’s still a tiny percentage compared to the number of people actually experiencing problems.

“So if you're brave enough, and you've hit the wall or hit bottom and you really say, ‘Okay, I need help,’ they look at those numbers,” she said. “And those numbers are on the rise for stress, grief, and suicidal ideation.”

Cart said more data is needed to truly understand and begin to address the issue.

— Adia White, NSPR

California bill would require gun owners carry proof of insurance

Gun owners would have to have liability insurance under a new proposal in the California Legislature.

Berkeley state Sen. Nancy Skinner is authoring the legislation, which would require gun owners to carry proof of insurance. It’s based in part on a new ordinance approved in San Jose.

That law allows firearm carriers to use home or renters’ insurance if it includes liability coverage.

Skinner’s bill is the latest in a string of proposed gun restrictions moving through the state Legislature this year. Others include a ban on ghost guns — or unmarked weapons that can be assembled at home — and measures to allow lawsuits against gun makers and sellers for civil damages if their weapons are used illegally.

The new bill is being introduced past a legislative deadline, but lawmakers could suspend the rules to advance it.

— CapRadio Staff

Supreme court limits California worker protection law

In a win for California employers, the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday placed limits on a state law that lets workers sue over certain labor law violations, even if they agreed to arbitration.

The Private Attorneys General Act essentially deputizes Californians, letting them sue on behalf of the state, especially in industries like agriculture and construction, where the state can’t rein in widespread labor law violations.

In Viking River Cruises, Inc v. Moriana, a majority of justices found federal law preempts state law. But Bill Gould, professor emeritus at Stanford Law, says there’s a big hint in one of the concurring opinions — that the state code could be tweaked.

“You can always go to the California legislature and get a new procedure, which will arguably pass muster under the Supreme Court’s view of the Federal Arbitration Act,” Gould said.

While it’s 1-0 for the employers now, Gould predicts this game isn’t over.

— Rachael Myrow (KQED), The California Report

State considers designating Joshua tree as endangered

The western Joshua tree won’t be listed as a threatened species in California at least for now.

The Associated Press reports the state Fish and Game Commission was split 2-2 Thursday on whether to designate the tree under the California Endangered Species Act.

The commission is expected to revisit the issue in October, according to the AP, and it will seek more feedback from tribes. The commission also asked the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to work on a conservation plan.

According to the AP, there was agreement that climate change including hotter temperatures and droughts is a danger to the trees.

— Andre Byik, NSPR

Stories from NPR partner stations are edited by NSPR Staff for digital presentation and credited as requested.

In other news

  • Chico State custodian Kerry Thao released on probation: “Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said an investigation into Thao’s psychological profile convinced his office that threatening comments appeared to be a one time episode.” — Chico Enterprise-Record
  • Body found at Marysville Recology facility ID’d as Magalia man: “The identity of a man found at a Recology facility in Marysville in late April was identified Friday by Yuba County Sheriff Wendell Anderson. Anderson confirmed with the Appeal-Democrat that the identity of that man was 57-year-old Ron Keith Lamp of Magalia in Butte County.” — Chico Enterprise-Record

In case you missed it

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Sarah is an award-winning reporter, producer and editor. She’s worked at North State Public Radio for six years and was previously the station’s News Director before leaving to study at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
A graduate of California State University, Chico, Andre Byik is an award-winning journalist who has reported in Northern California since 2012. He joined North State Public Radio in 2020, following roles at the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review.
Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.