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KUNR Today: PG&E power lines caused Dixie Fire, Wages rising slower than housing prices

Courtesy Gwendolyn Gorsich
National Interagency Fire Center

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022.

PG&E blamed for massive Northern California wildfire
By The Associated Press

State fire officials say Pacific Gas & Electric power lines sparked last summer’s Dixie Fire in Northern California that swept through five counties and burned more than 1,300 homes and other buildings.

Cal Fire said Tuesday that the blaze began last July after a tree hit electrical distribution lines in the Sierra Nevada. The fire burned nearly 1 million acres. PG&E already had said its equipment may have been involved and it's facing legal action for other fires. The utility has pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for a 2018 blaze that nearly destroyed the town of Paradise.

Indoor mask requirement in place for most Nevada counties
By Lucia Starbuck

People in most counties in Nevada are required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Esmeralda County just joined that list. On the other hand, for Storey, White Pine and Eureka counties, masks are only required indoors for unvaccinated individuals. That could be the same for Mineral County, which is experiencing a moderate risk of transmission, but that trend needs to continue for another week.

Nevada follows the CDC’s guidance on masking. In order to lessen the restrictions, a county must have fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days and a test positivity rate under 8% for two weeks straight.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations in Nevada or view the state COVID-19 dashboard.

Majority of City of Reno meetings go virtual due to local COVID-19 surge
By Lucia Starbuck

The City of Reno is limiting in-person government meetings due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Reno City Council meetings will continue with a hybrid format, which allows people to provide public comment in person, but virtual public comment is encouraged. A majority of the city’s board and commission meetings will be virtual for now. Reno City Hall will remain open during normal business hours.

On Monday, the community meeting about the Neon Line District will be completely virtual. The City has invited the public to have a discussion about the 20-year development plan in downtown Reno and says there will be time for questions.

Report: Wages up in West, but not as much as housing costs
By Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows wages are rising in Nevada and across the region, but they aren’t rising nearly as fast as housing prices.

The report shows average weekly wages rose between 4-7% between June 2020 and June 2021. That’s a bigger increase than two years ago, but it isn’t matching skyrocketing housing costs, especially in booming cities like Boise, Reno and Las Vegas. They saw median home values rise by more than 20% last year.

The rest of the region has also seen some record-breaking housing price increases. That’s according to an analysis from the nonprofit Headwaters Economics in Montana. Megan Lawson is an economist with that group, and said wages have long lagged behind housing prices in the West, but it’s coming to a tipping point.

"I think right now we’re seeing a labor market reckoning. Workers have a stronger voice so I think we will see wages rise but I’m not sure they will make up that difference,” Lawson said.

Lawson doesn’t expect housing prices to collapse anytime soon, but she does think they’ll eventually slow down.

Biden, Obama, Pelosi to speak at Harry Reid's funeral
By The Associated Press

President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama and congressional leaders will speak at Harry Reid’s funeral in Las Vegas on Saturday. A spokesperson for the late Senate majority leader says Obama will deliver a eulogy, while Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will also speak.

Reid died last week after a years-long battle with pancreatic cancer. He retired from the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing Nevada for five terms, including 12 years as the chamber’s top Democrat. Carole King and Brandon Flowers of the Las Vegas-based band The Killers are scheduled to perform at the ceremony in downtown Las Vegas.

US judge blocks work at Nevada geothermal plant for 90 days
By The Associated Press

A federal judge says he intends to temporarily block any construction work for 90 days at a proposed geothermal power plant in Nevada facing legal challenges.

Judge Robert Jones heard initial arguments in Reno on Tuesday on a lawsuit filed by tribal leaders and conservationists who claim the project would destroy a sacred tribal site and could result in extinction of a rare toad being considered for endangered species protection.

Jones says he’s going to refuse a request for a longer injunction that would have prohibited any activity at the site until he can hear full arguments and rule on the merits of a lawsuit they filed last month.

Scaled-back CES gadget show returns to Las Vegas Strip
By The Associated Press

Thousands of people have gathered in Las Vegas for a tech conference that’s been scaled back because of COVID-19 precautions. The floor of the CES gadget show opened Wednesday with conference attendees required to wear masks and show proof of vaccination.

The event's organizer, the Consumer Technology Association, hasn’t disclosed attendance numbers but said it expects tens of thousands of people for the multi-day event, though not nearly as many as the 170,000 who showed up for the last in-person show two years ago. The trade group says this year’s expo features 2,300 exhibitors from 19 countries.

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