Best of the West: California battles blazes, bears make a comeback, predicting the future of jobs in Oregon

Wildfires, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting December 4, 2017, that you don't want to miss. Photo: Michael Owen Baker, for The Los Angeles Times

Southern California wildfires spread rapidly this week, scorching 110,000 acres, forcing thousands of evacuations and destroying more than 300 homes and buildings as of Thursday, Dec. 7. Officials issued an unprecedented ‘extreme’ fire risk designation, and worry that 80 mph winds will worsen firefighting conditions.

The flames forced the closure of the 405 freeway, the nation’s busiest highway, and the 101 north of Ventura. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency, and Los Angeles officials closed 265 schools in the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles as a safety measure. Follow live updates from the New York Times.

Car-free? The vast majority of American households have at least one car, but more cities are seeing their residents opt out of vehicle ownership. Kansas, Texas, Colorado and Utah report growing rates of households without vehicles per city; see if your community is going car-free

The Future of Jobs: Educators and employers in Oregon are preparing job seekers for careers that are rapidly changing with the adoption of technology and automation. Listen to an interview about how the state is working to train people for jobs of the future. And learn more about the Western Governors' Workforce Development Initiative, which seeks to create enhanced career opportunities across the West.

Expanding Territories: Bear populations are slowly growing in Nevada and Montana, giving researchers reason to be cautiously optimistic. Black bears are reclaiming native habitat that was previously abandoned, and grizzlies near Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks have the potential to connect, which could increase their genetic diversity and chances of survival.

New Web Resource: A one-stop-shop for information on Wyoming’s wetlands has been created by the state Game and Fish Department. The new resource is designed to help educators, landowners, hunters, anglers and bird watchers learn more about the ecosystem, and easily find information that was previously more difficult to find.

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