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This Hour: Latest California news, sports, business and entertainment

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Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes

PLYMOUTH, Calif. (AP) - Fire officials say a private drone trying to record footage of a Northern California wildfire nearly hindered their air assault.

State fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff says the drone was sighted above the fire burning in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento on Sunday, two days after the fire broke out.

The person controlling the unmanned aircraft, whom she did not identify, was trying to get video of the blaze and was told to stop by authorities because of the potential danger to firefighting planes.

The fire - one of two that has forced evacuations in California - has burned through a little under 6 square miles and was 65 percent contained. Some of the roughly 1,200 people under evacuation orders were allowed to return to their homes Monday morning.


Additional charge filed in California wildfire

REDDING, Calif. (AP) - Prosecutors in Northern California have filed involuntary manslaughter charges against a man suspected of starting a wildfire that left one person dead.

Thirty-seven-year-old Freddie Alexander Smoke III, of Sacramento, was already facing charges of marijuana cultivation and accidentally starting a fire in connection with this month's Bully Fire near the community of Igo. The Shasta County District Attorney's Office said Monday it's now seeking his arrest on the manslaughter charge.

Smoke is accused of starting the fire while delivering supplies to an illegal marijuana grow. Authorities believe the exhaust from his rental truck sparked the blaze.

The fire scorched nearly 20 square miles before it was contained. Smoke posted bail on his original charges before the remains of 38-year-old Jesus Arellano Garcia were found in the fire's path.

Officials tell the Record Searchlight of Redding that Smoke has ties to Redding, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Indiana and Illinois.


Hiker, 13, missing in California national park

KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) - A 13-year-old boy has gone missing while hiking at Kings Canyon National Park in Central California.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks said in a statement that staffers were searching Monday night for Austin Shedd, who disappeared after getting separated from a group of hikers.

Parks officials say Shedd's group was hiking from Arrow Peak to Bench Lake when he disappeared. The hikers had planned to end their trip Monday and exit through the park's Taboose Pass.

They did not say how long he's been missing or with whom he was hiking.

Shedd is 5-foot-3 and weighs 110 pounds with light brown hair and blue eyes. He has braces and was wearing a green hat when he went missing.


E-mails show cozy ties between PG&E, regulator

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Newly released emails show top California regulators communicated often and enthusiastically with executives at PG&E, as they simultaneously presided over a case to decide how much the utility should pay for a deadly explosion in a San Francisco Bay area suburb.

The City of San Bruno released emails on Monday between California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey and PG&E after suing for their release earlier this year. The PUC is charged with punishing PG&E in the wake of the 2010 pipeline blast in San Bruno that claimed eight lives.

Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill says the emails show an illegal and inappropriate relationship between the utility and the powerful state agency.

PG&E President Chris Johns said the company is required to communicate regularly with the commission.


5 California career colleges close abruptly

(Information in the following story is from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News,

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A company that operated five health care career colleges in California has abruptly closed its campuses 10 days after filing for bankruptcy.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Biohealth College in San Jose and the Bryman Colleges in San Jose, Hayward, San Francisco and Los Angeles together enrolled about 280 students whose course credits may now be worthless.

But California Department of Consumer Affairs spokesman Russ Heimerich, whose agency oversees for-profit colleges, says the students won't have to repay any federal loans they may have taken out to finance their educations and may be eligible for tuition refunds from the state.

The closure of the schools comes a month after Corinthian Colleges, based in Santa Ana, announced that it plans to sell or close dozens of its Heald College, Everest College and WyoTech programs in 11 states.


EPA reaches San Francisco Bay pollution settlement

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A San Francisco Bay Area water agency and six cities it serves have agreed to pay $1.5 million in fines to settle allegations that they allowed raw or partially treated sewage to flow into the bay.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the penalties are part of a settlement to a lawsuit it brought five years ago against the cities and the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Under the deal announced Monday, the water district and the cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont also agreed to invest an estimated $1.5 billion over the next 21 years to upgrade their aging sewer systems to prevent future spills.

According to the EPA, about 1.1 billion gallons of sewage was either forced out of manholes during storms or illegally discharged from the water districts between 2009 and last year.


Police: 4 arrests in killing of USC student

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Police say two adults and two teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of murder in the killing of a Chinese foreign exchange student from the University of Southern California.

Los Angeles police spokesman Andy Smith said Monday the suspects are being held for investigation of murder with special circumstances and other charges.

Police say a fifth suspect was arrested on suspicion of robbery and is thought to be connected to the other four.

Police say 24-year-old Xinran (SHING'-rahn) Ji was found dead Thursday morning in his off-campus apartment. Officials say the graduate engineering student was walking home from a study group when he was attacked.

In 2012, two Chinese graduate students were shot during a robbery near campus. One of two men charged with those killings has pleaded guilty to murder.


Rare storm at California beach hard to see coming

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Although lightning does strike Southern California frequently, it rarely hits the beach.

When it does, the consequences can be chaotic and deadly, as they were Sunday when a huge lightning bolt descended on Los Angeles' bohemian Venice Beach, killing 21-year-old Nick Fagnano and injuring 12 others.

Climatologist Bill Patzert says the storm that materialized did so rapidly and was so isolated that he couldn't say anyone was to blame for not seeing it coming despite lightning striking a man on a golf course on nearby Santa Catalina Island earlier in the day.

The chances of being struck by lightning in California are one in 7 to 10 million, much rarer than other parts of the country. The phenomenon is so rare that lifeguards lack an emergency warning system.


Friends, family mourn death in LA lightning strike

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Friends and family are mourning the death of 21-year-old Nick Fagnano (Fahn-YANN'-Oh), who died after lightning struck off the coast of Los Angeles' popular Venice Beach.

Fagnano's uncle Dennis Shanahan said Monday his nephew was "a kid that lit up the room wherever he went."

Some witnesses said Fagnano had been in the water when the lightning hit Sunday. He was unresponsive as he was rushed to a hospital and later died.

He grew up in Los Angeles and played pitcher on the baseball team at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks.

Fagnano attended Santa Barbara City College and had been accepted as a transfer student to the University of Southern California, where he planned to pursue urban policy and development.

A funeral is scheduled for Thursday.


Conservation group appeals San Diego power plant

SAN DIEGO (AP) - A conservation group is challenging a proposed natural gas power plant in San Diego.

The Protect Our Communities Foundation filed a petition with the 4th District Court of Appeal on Monday asking it to overturn the California Public Utilities Commission's approval of the plant.

The state commission voted unanimously earlier this year to approve it despite concerns from environmentalists.

The plant's supporters say it is particularly needed because the San Onofre Nuclear power plant went offline last year.

Opponents say the approval undermines the state's commitment to green energy and will cost taxpayers $1.6 billion during its first 25 years.

The plant would be in Otay Mesa, about 20 miles southeast of downtown San Diego.

The CPUC says it hasn't seen the petition and can't comment.


Cattle auction boss gets probation in cruelty case

ONTARIO, Calif. (AP) - The owner of a Southern California livestock auction house will serve probation for his role in an animal cruelty case that came to light after an undercover investigation by an animal rights organization.

Horacio Santorsola entered a plea of no contest Monday in San Bernardino County Superior Court to a misdemeanor count of receiving improperly held non-ambulatory animals.

He also must pay $1,000 in fines and fees to the Inland Valley Humane Society.

Other charges were dismissed in a plea deal.

The Los Angeles-based group Mercy for Animals secretly filmed workers kicking and stomping on pigs, hitting emus with a baton and slinging baby goats by the neck and hind legs.

Santorsola and seven employees at his company, Ontario Livestock Sales Inc., were charged in 2012.


Groups seek probe into pepper spray use

SAN DIEGO (AP) - California civil rights organizations have filed a complaint with the Justice Department asking for a federal investigation into the use of pepper spray in San Diego County's juvenile detention facilities.

The complaint filed Monday alleges that pepper spray use is rampant against youth offenders, including those at risk of suicide or self-harm. It also says officials have used it against youth who failed to follow verbal instructions and on minors with sensitive medical conditions.

The San Francisco-based Youth Law Center, the California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. and a San Diego-area coalition of community organizations, including the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, jointly filed the complaint.

Justice Department and county officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

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