Facts Matter: 'Plenty of water' to battle California wildfires

 
 
Updated 8/11/2018 8:03 PM
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  • A helicopter drops water onto a ridge top as part of efforts to fight a wildfire Friday in Lake Elsinore, California.

    A helicopter drops water onto a ridge top as part of efforts to fight a wildfire Friday in Lake Elsinore, California. Associated Press

Wildfires in Northern California are being "made so much worse" because of environmental laws responsible for available water being diverted into the Pacific Ocean, President Donald Trump tweeted last Sunday.

State wildfire and water experts disagree, according to The Associated Press.

There is "plenty of water" for the 14,000 firefighters to battle the 470-square-mile blaze, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean told AP. The fire is near large lakes, as well as the state's biggest river, he said. Firefighting aircraft dip in and scoop up water from bodies of water to drop or spray on the flames, McLean said.

The wildfires are in the hills north of San Francisco, far from the ocean and the storage and distribution system that carries water to the southern part of the state, making the president's claim "physically impossible," according to Jay Lund, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of California, Davis, AP reported.

Trump ended the Aug. 5 tweet with, "Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading."

Years of drought killed millions of trees, leaving them dry, brittle fuel for the wildfires, AP said. Forestry officials were urged to quickly clear the dead trees.

"It might have something to do with forest management and the drought. But it has nothing to do with water policy," Lund told AP.

The blaze is California's largest-ever wildfire and firefighters hope to have it under control by next month, according to AP.

Man wouldn't lose voting privileges

A fake story claiming a man who vandalized Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame will be banned from voting for life has circulated recently online, according to AP.

Austin Clay, 24, was charged Monday with one felony count of vandalism, AP said. He is facing up to three years in prison.

The false article was published by YourNewsWire, stating Clay was "set to be banned from voting for the rest of his life" for demolishing Trump's star with a pickax, AP reported.

If Clay is eventually convicted of a felony, according to California state law, he would be eligible to vote once he has served his sentence, AP said. If he is incarcerated in a county facility, he could still vote while in jail.

Police 'active shooter' claim false

Texas police posted an "active shooter" alert on Facebook as an emergency was unfolding last month at a shopping mall in the southern part of the state.

An hour later the post was updated to "a robbery attempt at a jewelry store" in McAllen, but the original alert has since been shared more than 2,900 times, according to the Brownsville Herald.

McAllen police later said shots were not fired, the Brownsville Herald said. "Breaking glass cases may have been interpreted as shooting," according to a news release from police.

Constable Atanacio "J.R." Gaitan said the alert was a result of calls the department received from community members about events taking place at La Plaza Mall, the Herald reported. The social media post went up while officers were on the way to the scene, he said.

Seven suspects were arrested and charged with aggravated robbery in the July 28 incident at the Deutsch & Deutsch jewelry story, a situation that ended "almost instantaneously," according to McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez, the Herald said.

"Social media is part of our environment today," Rodriguez told the Herald. "I think we have a responsibility that comes with our positions to make sure we don't aggravate a situation carelessly."

Michael J. Fox not dead

Reports of Michael J. Fox's death have been greatly exaggerated.

A fake post stating, "Beloved Actor and Back to the Future Star Michael J. Fox Has Died at the Age of 57," was published Aug. 4 by yahoonews-us.com, a junk news website that imitates the real Yahoo! News site, <URL destination="https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/michael-j-fox-death/">according to Snopes.com.

</URL>The post falsely claimed the actor had died from pneumonia, a complication of Parkinson's disease, and included confirmation from doctors and the coroner, Snopes said.

Fox has not posted on Twitter since June 1, possibly making the fake news more believable, according to People magazine. However, the actor posted an image on July 31 of himself, his wife and two daughters on Instagram.

Fox has not responded, People magazine said. But social media users have been getting the truth out. "Check your sources before automatically retweeting," one post said, according to People.

Other actors who have been recent victims of a death hoax include "Mr. Bean" star Rowan Atkinson and "Jurassic Park" star Jeff Goldblum, People magazine said.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com

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