AGENTS PULL 15,000 POT PLANTS IN SIERRA FOREST: OAKHURST (AP) — Agents in Madera County have eradicated nearly 15,000 marijuana plants on two grow sites in the Sierra National Forest.
Madera County Sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart says the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team pulled the plants on Wednesday, reclaiming nearly five miles of wilderness.
Due to high elevation and steep terrain, agents had to access the grow sites by air. Stuart says they also removed four miles of drip irrigation line, over 2,000 pounds of waste, propane tanks, food and bedding. No arrests were made.
Officials say one of the sites, Upper Chiquito Creek, is where fire crews battled a 40-acre forest fire last month. Officials say the fire had been set by marijuana growers.
The second grow site, near lower Chiquito Creek, was located close to a popular public campground.
Officials say the operations are tied to Mexican drug-trafficking organizations.
FRESNO'S FIRE CHIEF ARRESTED: FRESNO (AP) — Fresno's fire chief has been arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence and criminal threats.
Fresno County Sheriff's Office spokesman Chris Curtice said James Robert Brown Jr. was arrested late Wednesday night after he apparently assaulted and threatened to kill family members during a disturbance at his home.
Brown was booked into jail and released on bail Thursday morning.
Curtice said Brown was visibly intoxicated and initially uncooperative with deputies. According to investigators, he was hit with pepper spray by a family member during the incident.
City Manager Mark Scott said Brown has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
The 50-year-old Brown was hired in April 2012 after a national search. A call to his office was referred to the city manager. A message left at his home was not immediately returned.
EVICTED TENANTS LEAVE 30 DOGS AT RIVERSIDE HOME : RIVERSIDE (AP) — Animal control officers say renters evicted from a Riverside County home left behind at least 30 dogs.
The dogs, mostly Chihuahua mixes, were found Wednesday at a urine- and feces-littered home in Jurupa Valley. One dog was giving birth in a closet.
The renters already had left but the owners have 10 days to reclaim their pets from an animal shelter.
FRESNO POLICE DOUBLE UP IN CARS AFTER THREATS: FRESNO (AP) — Fresno's police chief says officers are riding two to a patrol car because of what he calls "credible threats" to their safety.
Chief Jerry Dyer said police began doubling up Monday night. He says the department is investigating the threats and taking other precautions.
It's the second time this year that the department has taken additional measures to protect officers.
Dyer ordered a citywide sweep in April after unidentified gang members made threats following a police shooting that wounded a reputed gangster. At that time, SWAT team members visited the homes of suspected gang members.
MAN WINS RELEASE IN DISNEYLAND DRY-ICE BLAST CASE: FULLERTON (AP) — A Disneyland worker charged in connection with the explosion of two dry-ice bombs at the theme park has been ordered released from custody.
Deputy district attorney Andrew Katz says an Orange County judge on Thursday ordered 22-year-old Christian Barnes released on his own recognizance.
Katz opposed the release over public safety concerns given the lack of information about Barnes.
The order came after the judge had previously lowered Barnes' bail from $500,000 to $50,000.
Prosecutors say Barnes placed dry ice in two water bottles that exploded last month at Disneyland. No one was injured in the blasts.
Barnes has pleaded not guilty to possession of a destructive device in a public place.
SAN DIEGO SCHOOLS END CAFETERIA WORKER GIFTS: SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego schools have canceled a program that gave shopping gift cards, chocolates and movie passes to cafeteria workers using money from a program to feed needy children.
Citizen complaints prompted the decision by the San Diego Unified School District.
The district spent $300,000 over the past 12 years to provide incentive gifts for some 1,200 employees. The cafeteria workers earned them by getting points for good performance. They've been told to redeem the points by next Tuesday.
District spokeswoman Linda Zintz says lunch-subsidy money shouldn't have been used for the gifts. She says the district — which has an $86 million budget hole — chose not to continue the program using general fund money.
QMD TO HEAR FROM PUBLIC ON FIRE PIT RESTRICTIONS: NEWPORT BEACH (AP) — Tempers might get a little hot in Southern California as smog regulators consider plans to limit beach fire pits.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District will hear public testimony Thursday evening and Friday on proposals to restrict the fire rings. Ideas include a buffer zone between the rings and nearby homes and requiring the use of propane instead of wood fuel.
Newport Beach officials sought an outright ban after residents complained that soot and smoke were drifting over their homes. Nearby cities say the rings are a beach tradition that should be preserved.
The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to consider a ban next month.
However, both sides say they're willing to compromise and accept restrictions instead.