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    As the destructive Lilac Fire rages to the west of Interstate 15 near state Route 76 in Bonsall, many people are wondering how they can help.

    San Diego County 2-1-1 said Thursday evening they were in need of volunteers at their call center, where people affected by the fire were looking for resources and information on the Lilac Fire.

    Volunteers were needed from the hours of 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. Thursday. People can sign up to volunteer online or by calling 858-300-1269. 

    The San Diego/Imperial County Red Cross (SDIC Red Cross) said the best way to help their organization is through monetary donations as they assist evacuees

    “A cash donation is the really most versatile that allows us to very quickly and carefully target what most citizens need to sustain their lives,” Government Liason Officer for the American Red Cross said.

    Volunteers wishing to donate their time should head to shelters across North County being operated by SDICRC. For a list of evacuation centers visit here.

    The San Diego County Humane Society said they are not in need of volunteers at this time, but those wishing to help can donate pet supplies and food by going to their Amazon wish list

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    Officers are investigating a fatal shooting that happened inside a home in the 4800 block of Elsa Rd. Sunday night.

    The shooting happened around 10 p.m., according to San Diego police.

    Officials cannot confirm the number of victims, but the victim(s) was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Check back on this breaking story for updates.  

    Photo Credit: NBC Boston

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    San Diego County will waive permit fees for the rebuilding of more than 200 structures that have been destroyed or damaged in the Lilac Fire.

    The County Board of Supervisors approved the waiver Monday after hearing the damage done by the 4,100-acre Lilac Fire. The supervisors also extended an emergency declaration. Get the latest updated information on the fire here.

    San Diego County Disaster Recovery manager Amy Harbert reported that 104 residential and two commercial structures were destroyed along with 78 accessory structures such as barns, sheds and outbuildings.

    An additional 13 homes and five commercial buildings were damaged.

    The permit waiver will apply to structures within the fire's perimeter in unincorporated areas and any other areas in which county approval is needed. 

    County public works employees were removing debris from county maintained roads and replacing damaged street signs. In the near future, they will be repairing guardrails and establishing erosion control in the burn areas.

    Also, an estimated 200 acres of park land burned in the fire. No park structures have been affected, according to Harbert. 

    A center has been set up to assist residents with questions and resources. The center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Vista branch of the county library at 700 Eucalyptus Ave. Residents can call (858) 495-5200 for more information.

    Photo Credit: NBC 7

    A homeowner stands in the area where his home once stood after the Lilac Fire swept through Bonsall and parts of Fallbrook Thursday.A homeowner stands in the area where his home once stood after the Lilac Fire swept through Bonsall and parts of Fallbrook Thursday.

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    Supporters of short-term vacation rentals said the industry will bring tourists and more spending to areas outside San Diego's beaches, Gaslamp and Mission Valley at a news conference Monday.

    One day before a scheduled city council vote, supporters at the conference urged relaxed rules to encourage more Airbnb-type rentals.

    Barrio Logan business owners and landlords are pushing for a new city policy on short-term vacation rentals that will encourage the controversial use of homes, apartments and condos, and would minimize restrictions on landlords.

    With the city council set to vote on new short-term rental rules tomorrow, Martin Favela, whose family owns the Border X Brewery on Logan Avenue, urged council members to approve a less restrictive set of regulations.

    “Even though we have downtown really close to us, it takes the efforts of everyone who hosts people to recommend small businesses, and help us thrive,” said Favela.

    Landlord John Anderson, who lives in North Park, agreed that fewer restrictions on short-term vacation rentals would help lesser-known neighborhoods win a share of the tourism dollars that traditionally flow to the beach areas, Gaslamp and Mission Valley.

    “Many tourists want to come to San Diego for an authentic experience, for that vibe, for that sense of community,” Anderson said. “And I think that is a really powerful, long term trend.”

    Monday's news conference was organized by Airbnb and its local consultant. The company, and many local landlords, support a proposal endorsed by four city council members that would allow individual property owners to rent out up to three properties on a short-term basis, with no limit on the number of days rented per year.

    Critics claim that policy would encourage outside investors to purchase homes in residential neighborhoods, and essentially convert those properties into hotels.

    The critics also said the practice would inflate home prices, making it even tougher for local families and singles to buy homes and condos.

    “We must stop the growth of vacation rentals in some areas, so that families can sustain those communities as viable neighborhoods,” said Tom Coat, a Pacific Beach resident who favors more restrictions on Airbnb type-rentals.

    Coat says schools are closing in Pacific Beach because families cannot afford to buy in that neighborhood, in part because of property speculation related to short-term rentals.

    Coat supports a proposal from Councilwoman Barbara Bry, which would restrict homeowners to renting out their entire residence for a maximum of 90 days per calendar year.

    Bry says her proposal is the only one that “prohibits investors from converting homes in our residential neighborhoods into permanent mini-hotels.”

    But Jonah Mechanic, of Share San Diego, opposes any plan that “dictates what neighbors can and cannot do."

    "It’s quite honestly an issue of property rights that need to be protected,” Mechanic said.

    Mechanic said the most important issue for short-term rentals is the enforcement of existing rules on noise and nuisances. He argued that a proposed, tentative fee of about $900 per unit would help pay for code enforcement officers to police the industry.

    "That will help make sure that the bad actors, those who are taking advantage of the sharing economy, are eliminated from the sharing economy, but at the same time protect those who are doing it right," Mechanic said.

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    A special surprise came for two sisters, just in time for the holidays at Dewey Elementary School in Point Loma.

    Monday afternoon kicked-off with an ice cream social, then a raffle for a new bike. Third-grader Jordyn Hall heard her named called and was stunned, but she received an even bigger surprise when she turned around.

    “I was shocked to see the bike, then I turned around I got even more shocked,” the third-grader said.

    Jordyn and her six-year-old sister, Taylor, suddenly saw their mom pop out of the crowd. Melissa Hall, an active-duty Navy sailor, had been deployed on the destroyer USS Pinckney for six months.

    The two screamed with delight at the sight of their mother.

    “I thought I was dreaming,” Jordyn told NBC 7. The group hug was very emotional for Melissa and her oldest daughter.

    “Yeah I think Jordyn was crying,” Melissa said.

    Melissa Hall has been in the Navy for 14 years and told NBC 7 that deployments are part of the job, but they never get any easier.

    “I wish that deployments went between all the important things in life, but they don’t always go that way, so it’s hard," she said.

    The family was able to FaceTime for Taylor’s birthday while their mom was away. Other than that Melissa watched her daughters grow through pictures.

    At Dewey Elementary the principal told us that 80 percent of the students have a parent in the military.

    On Monday, dozens of students there got new bikes presented by members of the San Diego City School’s Police Department, through the “Blue Buddies Program”--with a little help from Santa, who flew in on a police helicopter thanks to some winter magic.

    But the biggest arrival by far was one Navy mom.

    “I’m really happy … because my mom is finally home,” said Jordyn. And for Melissa, “It was incredible, it was priceless.”

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    The lilac fire was powerful and extremely intense.

    More than 100 homes were destroyed, but three people dubbed the "three musketeers" were able to save a whole neighborhood.  

    Don Philippbar, his stepson Todd Smith and neighbor Cathy Orchard will not be forgetting the Lilac Fire anytime soon. 

    "It was pretty crazy, my heart’s beating right now just thinking about it," said Smith.

    Instead of evacuating, the three saved their neighborhood.

    "I was talking to Don and I said, 'God, I feel like the three musketeers out here,'" Orchard said with a laugh.

    Together they ran from house to house putting out hot spots after a home nearby caught fire, which sent embers flying into the sky.

    One landed on their 80-year-old neighbor's back door.

    "That was lit on fire so I took the garden hose, just hosing that thing down, and just kept hosing it down," said Philippbar. "And then I'm running down getting other spot fires on the next couple of houses."

    They used garden hoses along with old hoses from when Orchard was the Fire Chief in Monterey Park.

    Philippbar was also at one time a firefighter.

    "I remember a friend of mine who's an attorney, he said, why do you stay?"  recalled Orchard. "And I said, 'Because I know what I'm doing.' I wouldn't go into court and pretend I'm a lawyer. So people shouldn't pretend they’re firefighters if they don't know what they're doing."

    Even the ground next to the fire hydrant was burned to a crisp.

    The three demonstrated the saying, "All for one, and one for all," and in the process, became heroes for their hometown. 

    "I have no doubt that my house would've burned down if we weren't out here," Orchard said.

    The three combined have dozens of years of both firefighting and military experience.  

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    Two cars were reported to be involved in a collision off the westbound Interstate 8 on Monday, one vehicle overturned, according to California Highway Patrol.

    At approximately 10:25 p.m., CHP responded to a collision off the westbound Interstate 8, on the Tavern Road off-ramp, according to California Highway Patrol.

    One of the vehicles reportedly overturned. Two people were reported trapped in a vehicle, according to CHP.

    Fire crews responding to the scene were able to rescue those trapped inside the vehicle, and all people involved in the collision were taken to hospitals.

    The extent of injuries, and number of people involved in the incident, is unknown.

    The incident is under investigation. Check back for updates.

    Photo Credit: NBC 7

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    The NFL Network suspended Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and two other former NFL players-turned-analysts on Monday, after they and a former network executive were alleged to have sexually harassed a female colleague.

    Faulk and fellow on-air analysts Ike Taylor and Heath Evans, along with former executive producer Eric Weinberger and former network analysts Donovan McNabb, Warren Sapp and Eric Davis, were named in an updated lawsuit against NFL Enterprises by Jami Cantor, a former wardrobe stylist for the network.

    An amended complaint in the lawsuit, originally filed in October in Los Angeles Superior Court, accuses Faulk and Evans of having groped Cantor while she was at the network, while it accuses Taylor and McNabb of having sent her sexually inappropriate communications.

    NBC News reached out to Faulk, Taylor, Evans, McNabb, Weinberger and Davis for their responses to the allegations and was attempting to reach Sapp.

    Photo Credit: Frank Victores/AP, File

    In this Sept. 14, 2017, file photo, NFL analyst Marshall Faulk speaks during a pre-game show before an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans in Cincinnati.In this Sept. 14, 2017, file photo, NFL analyst Marshall Faulk speaks during a pre-game show before an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans in Cincinnati.

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    A member of President Donald Trump's legal team said Tuesday that it's time to create a second special counsel to start investigating the FBI and Department of Justice, NBC News reported.

    Jay Sekulow confirmed his remarks, which were first reported by Axios, in which he said the DOJ and FBI can no longer ignore the "multiple problems" created by "obvious conflicts of interest" while a special counsel investigates allegations of collusion between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign. Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, began leading that federal probe in May.

    "These new revelations require the appointment of a special counsel to investigate," Sekulow said. He said the call for another special counsel "has nothing to do with Bob Mueller or Mueller's team."

    Sekulow's comments come after a senior Justice Department official was demoted in the wake of a report that he met with a private intelligence firm collecting anti-Trump opposition research and a top FBI agent was revealed to have been reassigned for potentially sharing personal texts that were critical of Trump

    Photo Credit: Steve Helber/AP, File

    This Oct. 23, 2015, file photo shows Jay Sekulow, a member of President Donald Trump's legal team, speak at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.This Oct. 23, 2015, file photo shows Jay Sekulow, a member of President Donald Trump's legal team, speak at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.

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    That time in 2017 when political testimonials include a brothel in Vietnam and love for your Jewish attorney. 

    Senate candidate Roy Moore's final campaign event Monday on the eve of Alabama's special election produced a trio of eyebrow-raising moments that caught fire on social media.

    Moore's surrogates, speaking from what described as a barn-style building in Midland City, championed their candidate in sometimes unorthodox ways. Let's roll the tape: 

    The Brothel Story
    Bill Staehle, who served with Moore in Vietnam, recalled from the stage an experience with another officer who had invited the pair to a "private club" to celebrate his last night in the country. 

    "He took us to this place which turned out to be a brothel," Staehle said. "We walked inside. I could tell you what I saw, but I don't want to. It was clear to us what kind of place this was." 

    He went on to describe the place. 

    "There were certainly pretty girls and they were young," Staehle said. "Some were probably very young." 

    Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his 30s. He has denied all allegations.

    Staehle said that Moore told him, "we shouldn't be here. I'm leaving." 

    Both left in the other officer's Jeep. 

    "That was Roy - honorable, disciplined, morally straight and highly principled," Staehle said. 

    The Jewish Attorney
    Roy Moore's wife Kayla fought back against claims that her husband was anti-Semitic after suggesting during the campaign that George Soros, a liberal billionaire and Holocaust survivor, was going to hell. 

    "Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews," Kayla Moore said. "I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all and I just want to set the record straight while they’re all here." 

    She proceeded to outline the case. 

    "Well, one of our attorneys is a Jew," Moore said, adding heft to her pronunciation of Jew. "We have very close friends who are Jewish and rabbis and we also fellowship with them.” 

    Moore earlier noted friendships with black people and touted that her husband appointed the first black marshal to the state Supreme Court. 

    Steve Bannon's Education Swipe
    The pro-Moore barnstorm also featured former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who argued that Tuesday's election is a referendum on President Donald Trump's agenda. 

    His comments about MSNBC's "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough may have stepped on the message. 

    Bannon mocked the former GOP Florida congressman by saying that he had gotten into better schools — Georgetown and Harvard. 

    It turns out Scarborough graduated from the University of Alabama. So did Bannon's guy Roy Moore, who graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law. 

    Scarborough didn't let the gaffe go unanswered. 

    Meanwhile, Moore's Democratic opponent Doug Jones held his final rally on Monday. It featured Alabama native Charles Barkley, who also delivered a notable moment on the trail. 

    "I love Alabama, but at some point we've got to draw a line in the sand and say, 'We're not a bunch of damn idiots,'" Barkley said.


    Comcast is the parent company of both MSNBC and this station.

    Photo Credit: AP
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    U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in Midland City, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in Midland City, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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    With more people opting out of traditional Christmas lights and choosing instead to create over-the-top laser displays, the Federal Aviation Administration warns these powerful beams could shoot past homes and into the sky, distracting pilots. 

    “The FAA's concerns about lasers – regardless of the source – is that they not be aimed at aircraft in a way that can threaten the safety of a flight by distracting or blinding the pilots,” the federal agency said in a statement. “People may not realize that systems they set up to spread holiday cheer can also pose a potential hazard to pilots flying overhead.”

    The FAA said pilots over the past few years have reported being distracted or blinded by residents' Christmas-themed laser light displays.

    Homeowners using laser-light displays should ensure the lights are hitting their house and not shining up into the sky, the FAA advised.

    “It may not look like the lights go much farther than your house, but the extremely concentrated beams of laser lights actually reach much further than most people think,” the agency said.

    The FAA said it Once aware of a laser-light display affecting pilots, the FAA said it asks the owner to adjust or turn them off. If a display continues to be a problem for pilots, a repeat offender could face an FAA civil penalty, the aviation agency said.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    File - Christmas lights are displayed on a house.File - Christmas lights are displayed on a house.

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    Jams and jellies won the day in a hyperlocal version of “Shark Tank.”

    Risa Baron, founder of El Cajon-based Jackie’s Jams, took 1st place in the $5,000 Elevate My Business Challenge after presenting to judges Nov. 30 at Plaza Bonita in National City.

    A dozen small businesses made pitches during the event, hosted by the National City Chamber of Commerce.

    The pitch contest was the culmination of a 60-day mini-accelerator program produced by San Diego-based Lift Development Enterprises Inc. Lift is a not-for-profit organization that aims to help underserved and underrepresented small business owners enter the next stage of business growth by giving them the tools and knowledge to scale their enterprises. More than half of the businesses that take part in Lift are women-owned or minority-owned.

    Second place in the Nov. 30 event went to Puzzle Pieces Marketing and founder Angel Mason Broadus. Taking third place were Jatana Williams of Beyond the Sky Solutions; Danielle King of Fitness Is My Sickness; and Jose Miranda of San Diego Premier Party Rentals.

    “I would say that most folks truly underestimate these small business owners. All of them leverage personal savings to start their business,” said Kim Folsom, co-founder of Founders First Capital Partners and Lift. “They all joined this program to learn how to improve their operations, product offerings and grow their businesses. They are all committed to growing their employee base and becoming community leaders.”

    “Giving our small businesses the tools to grow will lead to new jobs in South County,” said Cindy Gompper-Graves, CEO of the South County Economic Development Council. “Even Fortune 500 companies start small and with vision and the right tools and support become giants in their industry.”

    Lift joined with the National University Extended Learning program and Founders First Capital to leverage their online curriculum platform.

    Photo Credit: Jackie's Jams/Facebook
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    Jackie's Jams.Jackie's Jams.

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    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has up to 130,000 people imprisoned across a network of gulags, amounting to atrocities committed against his own nation, an international war crimes committee reported Tuesday.

    NBC News reported that the dictator committed all but one of the 11 recognized crimes against humanity, according to the International Bar Association War Crimes Committee's report: murder, extermination, enslavement, forcible transfer, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution, enforced disappearances and other inhumane acts.

    Defectors told the committee about a newborn being fed to guard dogs, executions of starving prisoners for scrounging for edible plants in the dirt, the torture of Christians and more.

    The gulags "are as terrible, or even worse" than Nazi camps, renowned jurist Thomas Buergenthal, who survived Auschwitz and serves on the committee, told The Washington Post.


    Photo Credit: DigitalGlobe via Getty Images

    DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of Sinuiju concentration camp (Kyo-hwa-so No. 3) in North Korea date Oct. 29, 2016.DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of Sinuiju concentration camp (Kyo-hwa-so No. 3) in North Korea date Oct. 29, 2016.

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    Standing outside of a Roy Moore rally in Midland City on the eve of Alabama’s special Senate election, peanut farmer Nathan Mathis held a photo of his daughter and a sign with a message for voters: Please don’t vote for Moore.

    Mathis’ daughter, Patti Sue Mathis, died by suicide when she was 23 because "she was tired of being ridiculed and made fun of," for being gay, he wrote in an open letter to the Dothan Eagle, a local Alabama newspaper, in 2012.

    Speaking to NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard, Mathis condemned Moore’s past comments on homosexuality while revealing he too was once anti-gay. "I said bad things to my daughter, which I regret,” Mathis lamented.

    "Judge Roy Moore called her a pervert for one reason: because she was gay," Mathis said. "If he called her a pervert, he called your child a pervert if she was gay or if your son was gay. This is something people need to stop and think about. He’s supposed to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution said all men are created equal. Well, how’s my daughter a pervert just because she was gay?”

    He continued, "He didn’t call my daughter by name, but he said all gay people are perverts, abominations. That’s not true. We don’t need a person like that representing us in Washington. That’s why I’m here."

    The Wicksburg resident's sign noted "a 32-year-old Roy Moore dated teenage girls ages 14 to 17. So that makes him a pervert of the worst kind," a reference to allegations by several women that Moore made sexual advances toward the when they were teenagers. Moore has denied the accusations.

    Moore has a long history of making anti-LGBTQ statements, including saying homosexuality should be illegal and that “homosexual behavior is a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.”

    He was also removed from his state’s Supreme Court for urging state probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized it.

    Photo Credit: @VaughnHillyard
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    The night before Alabama's special senatorial election, Nathan Mathis stood outside a Roy Moore rally to talk about his gay daughter, who died by suicide at age 23.The night before Alabama's special senatorial election, Nathan Mathis stood outside a Roy Moore rally to talk about his gay daughter, who died by suicide at age 23.

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    New surveillance images released Tuesday appear to reveal three suspects connected to a string of house burglaries across San Diego County.

    The images show a woman and two men who allegedly ransacked three residences in Del Cerro, La Mesa and Rancho Penasquitos last August, according to San Diego County Crime Stoppers. During the series of heists, the suspected thieves stole expensive jewelry and high-end purses.

    In the first incident, a woman rang the doorbell of a house on Glenmont Street, near Marne Avenue in Del Cerro around 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 13. When nobody answered the door, two men smashed a sliding glass door in the back and broke in. Crime Stopper officials said the robbers stole several items.

    Later that day, the trio of thieves struck again.

    At 4:30 p.m., the same woman rang the doorbell of another house on Jackson Drive, near Zeta Street in La Mesa. Surveillance video shows the woman loitering by the door with her arms tightly crossed. Once the homeowner greets her, she asks, "Does Tony live here?"

    After the homeowner told her she had the "wrong home," she thanked him and appeared to leave. But when the homeowner left his house and returned several hours later, he discovered the place was burglarized.

    The robbers shattered his rear sliding glass door and went through three bedrooms, stealing more than $7,600 worth of jewelry and other items, said Crime Stoppers officials.

    A few weeks later, the same group of robbers ransacked a house on Calderon Road, near Ellingham Street in Rancho Penasquitos on Aug. 29. At about 10 a.m., the suspects broke in by smashing another rear sliding glass door.

    In that incident, they stole numerous high-end purses worth more than $10,000, according to San Diego Crime Stoppers.

    Surveillance footage shows the woman appears to be in her 20's with a thin build, wearing large black-framed glasses and donning long fingernails painted bright green. She also sports a tattoo on her left forearm.

    Crime Stopper officials said the male suspects are both in their 20's, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall with thin builds. They were spotted with a black Chrysler 200 with paper license plates, as well as a four-door white Mercedes.

    Investigators from the San Diego Police Department and the La Mesa Police Department have asked the public to help identify and locate the suspects. San Diego County Crime Stoppers said a reward up to $1,000 is available for leads that help authorities arrest the culprits.

    Photo Credit: San Diego County Crime Stoppers
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    It’s a Christmas tradition in some homes, but some parents are just a little extra when it comes to the Elf on the Shelf.

    Photo Credit: Jodi Kodesh

    NBC7's Jodi Kodesh shares this photo of her elf on the shelf, sleeping.NBC7's Jodi Kodesh shares this photo of her elf on the shelf, sleeping.

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    Amid sexual misconduct allegations that have rocked Capitol Hill, a generational divide is becoming increasingly evident in Congress. The upheaval has spurred a wave of younger lawmakers to demand institutional reform and call for top Congressional leaders to step down and make way for the next generation.

    "Given the current age profile of the Democrats, it seems like there will be a generational shift," Gregory J. Wawro, a professor of political science at Columbia University, told NBC. "That seems inevitable now. To what extent that will bring about changes in Congress or changes in the Democratic Party, that remains to be seen."

    While longtime Congressional leaders stumbled over their responses to the allegations that shook Capitol Hill and resulted in three lawmakers stepping down, younger legislators immediately demanded action.

    Rep. Kathleen Rice, 52, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, 50, both representing New York, were among the first to call for the resignations of Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken. Both announced their resignations last week.

    In contrast, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 77, initially questioned the claims made against Conyers after ex-staffers accused him of inappropriate touching.

    “Just because someone is accused — and was it one accusation? Is it two? I think there has to be — John Conyers is an icon in our country,” Pelosi said on NBC's “Meet the Press.”

    Rep. James Clyburn, 77, the assistant Democratic leader from South Carolina, echoed Pelosi's remarks, initially saying the allegations could have been made up before calling for him to resign. 

    Although Pelosi later said she believed Conyers' accusers and also eventually called for his resignation, Rice blasted her response.

    “I think that her comments on Sunday set women back and — quite frankly, our party back — decades,” she told reporters at the Capitol on Nov. 29, Politico reported. 

    Rice is part of an increasing number of young lawmakers pushing for longtime Congressional leaders to move aside for a new generation of leaders.

    “I’ve been vocal about the fact that I think we need new leaders stepping up to offer new strategies and new ideas for our caucus, our party, and most importantly for the people we serve,” Rice told NBC.

    Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez, 48, called for Pelosi’s resignation in an October speech.

    “Our leadership does a tremendous job, but we do have this real breadth and depth of talent within our caucus and I do think it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of leaders,” said Sanchez, 48.

    Pelosi, who has served in Congress for 30 years and has held the top Democratic leadership position since 2003, continues to be a top fundraiser for the Democratic Party. She made history as the first woman speaker of the House and has been credited with shepherding the Affordable Care Act into being. But she has been facing mounting criticism that she is out of touch with younger, working-class voters.

    “Pelosi is still indebted to the same cadre of donors and party professionals whose perception of the political dynamics in the country is highly distorted,” said journalist Michael Tracey, who wrote a June CNBC op-ed titled “How Nancy Pelosi is helping Republicans win.”

    Pelosi said earlier this year she would have retired from Congress if Hillary Clinton had been elected president in 2016. 

    “One of the reasons I stayed here is because I thought Hillary Clinton would win, we’d have a woman president and so there would be a woman not at a seat at the table, but at the head of the table for the world,” Pelosi said in a September interview with The New York Times.

    A spokesman for Pelosi said that she has no plans to retire.

    "[Pelosi] feels it’s important that there be a woman at the table," Drew Hammill told NBC. "She’s the highest ranking woman in American government to this day."

    The age of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders is as much of a factor in the criticism against them as their decades of entrenchment in political institutions.

    “Our leadership is old and creaky, including me,” former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, 69, told MSNBC in February.

    Hammill said that Pelosi has continuously sought to invigorate younger leadership in Congress and that he sees a disparity between criticism toward Pelosi and toward her male colleagues such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, 76, and Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 75.

    The 115th Congress is among the oldest in history, with nearly 35 percent of its members aged 65 or older. In 1981, the average representative was 49 years old and the average senator was 53, according to a report by Quorum, which pulled data from lawmakers’ official biographies. Today, those averages have gone up to 57 years for representatives and 61 for senators.

    Democratic leaders tend to be older than their Republican counterparts.

    In the House, the average age for Democratic lawmakers in leadership positions is 72 years old, while the average age of Republican House leadership is 48. Three of the four House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and James E. Clyburn, are all in their late 70s.

    “The Democrats' geriatric tilt in Congress and their leadership is a handicap,” Robert S. Erikson, a professor of political science at Columbia University, told NBC. “Sometimes I wonder if the Democrats' Congressional leadership is itself aware of the optics of this, whether this is for them a cause for concern.”

    Saturday Night Live took on the optics of this "geriatric tilt" in a November skit, with the fake Democratic National Committee touting “fresh new ideas delivered by fresh new faces.”

    These faces, portrayed by SNL actors, were some of the party's most prominent members, including Pelosi, “hot young thing” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 68, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, 59, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 76.

    Congress needs to adapt to keep up with changes in society, experts say.

    “There’s always been a reluctance [in Congress] to change the status quo, Wawro said. “But society is moving very quickly on some of the issues, especially with respect to sexual harassment, and it seems like inevitably the institution will be forced to change, just as the larger society and the workplace that are being forced to change because of increased awareness and victims of harassment becoming more vocal.”

    Experts agree that some new leadership in Congress would be beneficial, especially for Democrats.

    “I think it would be good if they did have younger members of the party assume leadership positions, assuming those individuals are qualified and have a vision for the party in the current context,” Wawro said.

    But he said that the question of whether Pelosi or other top leaders should step aside is a complicated one.

    "They got where they are and have stayed where they are for a reason and it’s risky to lose their experience and fundraising prowess if they were to step aside," said Wawro. 

    William H. Frey, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, said that although some existing Congressional leaders do have the power to pass laws that would benefit the younger generation, leadership inevitably shifts toward the younger generation over time.

    "I do think it would be helpful to have some new blood," Frey said. "And there is some new blood around. From what I understand, there are a lot of younger people who haven’t run before running in 2018 in both parties, particularly in the Democratic party, which I think is good news," Frey said.

    Rice is one of the newest members of Congress, having represented parts of New York for just two years.

    "When you’re newer to an institution like this, I think you’re naturally inclined to look at the status quo and think about how we can make it better," she said.

    Rice and Gillibrand are among several younger lawmakers pushing for reform in Congress in how it deals with sexual harassment claims.

    Rice, along with four other House members, two of whom are in their 30s, introduced a bipartisan bill to force the House to reveal the names of lawmakers who have settled harassment claims paid out with taxpayer dollars.

    “The American people have a right to know if their tax dollars are being used to protect a member of Congress and silence victims of sexual harassment and assault,” Rice said.

    Gillibrand introduced a bill last month that would reform the sexual harassment complaint process and increase transparency. She has previously tried to pass legislation to change how sexual assault allegations are handled in the military.

    Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 47, has been another sharp critic of Congress' handling of harassment claims.

    “There is a broken system,” Jeffries said on MSNBC on Dec. 5. “It has not delivered accountability. It has been intimidating for women to come forward who have experienced a hostile work environment or inappropriate behavior and I think our focus should be on fixing that.”

    Jeffries, who has represented part of New York in Congress for four years, said that Conyers' decision to retire was the right one and that Congress needs to hold all members accountable to the same standards.

    On the Republican side of the aisle, lawmakers have been grappling with sexual misconduct of their own, but are not under the same generational pressure as the Democrats.

    Arizona Rep. Trent Franks quit Thursday after complaints of sexual misconduct by two women. His resignation came after House Speaker Paul Ryan confronted him and told him he was recommending an ethics investigation.

    Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold from Texas is facing his own ethics investigation, which began in 2015 after a settlement with a former staffer who accused him of sexual harassment and discrimination based on her gender. 

    Democrats are quick to accuse Republicans of tolerating alleged abuse. President Donald Trump was elected after he was accused of sexual misconduct by at least 16 women. Trump endorsed Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of making sexual advances toward teenage girls. Moore has repeatedly denied the claims and ignored calls to drop out of the race.

    On Monday, Gillibrand joined four other senators calling on Trump to resign over his own sexual misconduct allegations, prompting the president to call her a “lightweight Senator” and “total flunky” in a tweet early Tuesday.

    He said Gillibrand, "who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump."

    Gillibrand fired back that she would not be silenced by a "sexist smear."

    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Some New York lawmakers are pushing for faster sexual harassment workplace reforms in the government. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, left, Rep. Kathleen Rice and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries are some of the state's younger lawmakers to publicly push for a faster response in wake of a slew of recent sexual harassment allegations made against public figures, celebrities and politicians.Some New York lawmakers are pushing for faster sexual harassment workplace reforms in the government. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, left, Rep. Kathleen Rice and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries are some of the state's younger lawmakers to publicly push for a faster response in wake of a slew of recent sexual harassment allegations made against public figures, celebrities and politicians.

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    Debbie Wesson Gibson is one of the women accusing Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct. She offered her personal account of Moore in an essay for NBC News' THINK section:

    I’ve known Roy Moore since 1981, so perhaps you can imagine my shock when he decided to lie — twice — about not knowing me, or knowing any of the women The Washington Post spoke with in November.

    Having claimed no sexual misconduct myself, I simply answered honestly that I had dated Moore for a few months when I was 17 and he was 34. I did not “wait 36 years to come out,” as some people have claimed; there was nothing to come out about, as he dated me very publicly. From the Catfish Cabin restaurant in Albertville on our first date is March of 1981 to my high school graduation night on May 22, 1981 to the kisses we exchanged at the Attalla Country Club pool concession area, there was nothing secret about our relationship. With 180 fellow graduates and a stadium full of family and friends and well wishers, it would be more challenging to find someone in Etowah County, Alabama in the spring of 1981 who was not aware that we dated.

    Initially, I merely helped establish for reporters that Moore had a pattern of dating very young girls when he was in his 30's. Note that the age of sexual consent in Alabama has been 16 since 1920. The age of majority in Alabama in 1981 was 19, and Moore’s own legal decisions have contained language in which he refers to 17 year olds as children.

    Photo Credit: Jon Gerberg/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Debbie Wesson Gibson shows what she says is a graduation card from Roy Moore, which she says he handed to her during her high school graduation ceremony in 1981. Underneath is Gibsons own note about what Moore meant to her at the time.Debbie Wesson Gibson shows what she says is a graduation card from Roy Moore, which she says he handed to her during her high school graduation ceremony in 1981. Underneath is Gibsons own note about what Moore meant to her at the time.

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    The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is celebrated on Dec. 12. For Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as well as other Latinos, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a powerful symbol of devotion, identity and patriotism. Her image inspires artists, activists, feminists and the faithful, NBC News reported.

    “In Christianity, for us, Our Lady signifies a lot,” said Father Juan Antonio Gutierrez of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in El Paso, Texas. “She is the one who supports us, helps us, and protects us.” 

    “She has been part of Mexican life for almost 500 years, and that’s why both believers and non-believers respect her image," Gutierrez told NBC News. "Our ancestors are represented through her; she represents us.”

    Our Lady of Guadalupe has been a staple in Mexican and Mexican American culture for generations and she has one of the more famous apparitions in the world. 

    Photo Credit: Getty Images/Andrew Renneisen, File

    In this Aug. 13, 2013, file photo, a woman prays inside the grounds of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the Kibera slumin Nairobi, Kenya.In this Aug. 13, 2013, file photo, a woman prays inside the grounds of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the Kibera slumin Nairobi, Kenya.

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    The list below shows the locations of California's 10 largest wildfires.

    Each fire includes the cause of the fire, date, location, acres burned, number of buildings damaged and fatalities. The data was compiled by Cal Fire and does not include fires before 1932, when less reliable records were available. 

    The list includes all fires in California, regardless of whether they were under local, state or federal agencies' responsibility.

    Note: The complex of deadly wilfires burning in Northern California are not included in this list. Taken as a whole, the October Fire Siege burned at least 245,000 acres in several counties.

    1. Cedar

    Cause: Human Related
    Date: October 2003
    Location: San Diego County
    Acres: 273,246
    Structures: 2,820
    Fatalities: 15

    2. Rush

    Cause: Lightning
    Date: August 2012
    Location: Lassen County
    Acres: 271,911 California/43,666 Nevada
    Structures: None
    Fatalities: None

    3. Rim

    Cause: Human Related
    Date: August 2013
    Location: Tuolumne County
    Acres: 257,314
    Structures: 112
    Fatalities: None

    4. Zaca

    Cause: Human Related
    Date: July 2007
    Location: Santa Barbara County
    Acres: 240,207
    Structures: 1
    Fatalities: 0

    5. Thomas

    Cause: Undetermined
    Date: December 2017
    Location: Ventra, Santa Barbara counties
    Acres: 231,000
    Structures: At least 800
    Fatalities: 1

    6. Matilija

    Cause: Undetermined
    Date: September 1932
    Location: Ventura County
    Acres: 220,000
    Structures: 0
    Fatalities: 0

    7. Witch

    Cause: Powerlines
    Date: October 2007
    Location: San Diego County
    Acres: 197,990
    Structures: 1,650
    Fatalities: 2

    8. Klamath Theater Complex

    Cause: Lightning
    Date: June 2008
    Location:Siskiyou County
    Acres: 192,038
    Structures: 0
    Fatalities: 2

    9. Marble Cone

    Cause: Lightning
    Date: July 1977
    Location: Monterey County
    Acres: 177,866
    Structures: 0
    Fatalities: 0

    10. Laguna

    Cause: Powerlines
    Date: September 1970
    Location: San Diego County
    Acres: 175,425
    Structures: 382
    Fatalities: 5

    Photo Credit: Getty Images
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    A firefighter uses a drip torch to light a back fire August 31, 2009 in La Crescenta, California.A firefighter uses a drip torch to light a back fire August 31, 2009 in La Crescenta, California.

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    A statue of an American bald eagle survived the intense heat of the Lilac Fire when 70 homes burned to the ground around it.

    Now, the Bonsall couple who own the statue and the home destroyed nearby are looking for answers to questions they never dreamed they’d have to ask.

    Pat and Dan Damon lived at the Rancho Monserate Mobile Home Park, near where the Lilac Fire broke out Thursday, Dec. 7.

    As Dan noted, fire consumed their home on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

    The eagle statue, a gift from the American Legion, was one of the few things from their home to survive the flames.

    “It still survived and I thought that was pretty moving to me and so it, just represents America,” Damon said.

    The couple lost everything, except the clothes they were wearing. They even lost the keyboards Dan used to work as a musician.

    “My heart breaks for him,” Pat Damon said of her husband. “Because entertainers are all emotion.”

    Now they're faced with trying to rebuild not only those homes, but their lives.

    But they are determined to rebuild.

    “Our past was our past, and that was our first chapter in life, now I'm trying to get my head around this, this is our second chapter of our life, so we get two chances now,” Pat Damon said.

    The fire destroyed 104 homes, San Diego County damage assessors reported Monday. 

    As of Tuesday morning, the fire was 92 percent surrounded. 

    The cause is under investigation.

    Photo Credit: NBC 7

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    A San Diego man believes the fact that he was not in the backyard of his home when a small plane crashed is a miracle.

    Max Sansa left his Clairemont home for work at 4:13 p.m. Saturday.

    At 4:25 p.m., a plane fell from the sky shortly after takeoff from Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport.

    The plane exploded into flames, killing two people and destroying the home.

    The pilots were trying to land in a nearby schoolyard, however, the plane crashed through a fence and skidded into Sansa's yard on Chandler Drive. 

    Sansa’s wife and 2-year-old daughter had left that morning to visit family in New York.

    “If they weren't in New York, they would be here," Sansa said pointing to the living room. "It's gone. It's all burned."

    His friend, Daniel, was staying with him. The two of them had done yard work in the backyard before the crash.

    They had finished lunch and were deciding what to do next when Daniel's girlfriend came by.

    “They were going to have a nap and Daniel lives in the room where the plane hit,” Sansa said. “But they decided to go to Point Loma for a walk. So that saved their lives.”

    The brush with death still weighs on Sansa.

    All that’s left of his backyard is an orange tree and part of a hammock.

    “We have nothing left,” he said.

    When asked what he’s going to do, Sansa suggests waiting a couple of years for the answer.

    “I don't know. But I know I have to keep going,” he said.

    The generosity of others is part of what keeps him going.

    A neighbor stopped by to drop off clothes even during our interview.

    “It just gives me hope,” he said.

    Sansa says his wife and daughter get back this weekend. Until then he is staying with friends.

    The plane, a 1995 Beechcraft Bonanza, was a six-seat single-engine airplane. It was registered to Altitude Aviation Inc., out of Hermosa Beach, California.

    On Monday, one of the people killed in the crash was identified as Robert Stelling, 50, of South Hampton, New York. Stelling and his wife were visiting San Diego for a veterinary medicine conference.

    Two other occupants of the plane — a man and a woman — walked away from the crash.

    An online fundraising page has been set up in the name of Max Sansa. You can find it here. 

    Photo Credit: NBC 7/Savonia Guy

    Max Sansa describes the moments before a plane crashed into his Clairemont home. The plane's descent was captured on video by Savonia Guy.Max Sansa describes the moments before a plane crashed into his Clairemont home. The plane's descent was captured on video by Savonia Guy.

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    A San Diego judge sentenced a teenager to prison Tuesday for a series of home invasion robberies in the North County earlier this year. 

    Aaron Rico V, 18, pleaded guilty to involvement in a series of break-ins between Jan. 23 and Feb. 11.

    On Tuesday, a judge sentenced Rico to 12 years in prison. 

    In at least four homes, a group of robbers tied up residents and stole valuables.

    In some instances, the suspects sexually assaulted residents, San Diego police said.

    Stephen Gomez is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 30. Aaron Rico III is scheduled to go to trial April 2. 

    Trial dates have not been set for co-defendants Thomas Smith Jr., Robin Shawver and Victor Harvey.

    The Ricos are brothers. Aaron Rico V was a minor when he was arrested but was charged as an adult.

    Photo Credit: NBC 7

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    It has been less than 10 years since the airlines started charging for every checked bag and now, the new fees can add hundreds of dollars to your next vacation budget. 

    With travelers looking for ways to cut down or skip those fees, NBC 7 Responds has some tips this holiday season: 

    • Freeload on the Freebies: Child car seats and strollers are checked for free. Before you zip them up in their travel bags, pack some items inside. 

    • Avoid Paying for Heavy Bags: Pack your heaviest items in your carry-on, that way you don’t get stuck paying an overweight charge if your checked bag goes over the 50-pound limit. 

    • Wear Your Luggage: If you have a jacket with multiple pockets, pack those full and wear the jacket. You can stow it once you’re settled in. 

    • Book Tickets with Airline Credit Card: More often these days, carriers will waive baggage fees for airline cardholders and their companions. 

    • Check Airline Mile Offers: Sometimes, carriers will offer free checked bags if you reach a certain limit of air miles. Check with the airline to see if they have an offer like this. 

    • Consider A Seat Upgrade: It might sound silly that a first-class upgrade could help you save money but if you expect to bring a lot of bags, flying first-class might be the same price as flying coach. Some carriers waive baggage fees for first-class flyers.

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    A fire that sparked in Tijuana Tuesday afternoon created a plume of smoke that could be seen in some parts of San Diego.

    California Highway Patrol officials confirmed the blaze was burning in Tijuana, Mexico, and posed no threat to San Diego. A viewer sent Telemundo 20 and NBC 7 a photo of the smoke as seen from Viewridge Avenue near Balboa Drive.

    No details on the fire were immediately released.

    Please refresh this page for updates on this story. Details may change as more information becomes available.

    Photo Credit: Kelly Woodward

    A photo from a viewer showed this plume of smoke, as seen from San Diego County.A photo from a viewer showed this plume of smoke, as seen from San Diego County.

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    A Colorado man convicted of violently raping a German tourist at knifepoint on New Year's Eve in Pacific Beach was sentenced Tuesday.

    Prosecutors confirmed that Jacob Skorniak, 49, was sentenced to serve 31 years in prison with an additional 50 years to life.

    Jacob Skorniak, 49, was charged with forcible rape and kidnap for rape, with allegations that he used a knife during the rape and moved the victim to a place of increased harm. The jury found all allegations to be true. 

    The 21-year-old German victim was spending New Year's Eve with friends on Dec. 31, 2015, when she encountered Skorniak. She was just returning to her Pacific Beach place when she first saw him. 

    She got out of her taxi, and the next thing she remembers is riding in Skorniak’s truck as he held her at knifepoint.

    Deputy District Attorney Marisa DiTillio said Skorniak pulled down a dark street, parked and used the knife to tear off some of the victim’s clothes.

    He then forcibly raped her as she begged him not to hurt her. As the assault was happening, the German victim pocket dialed her father in Germany, who heard a portion of the assault on the live phone line. 

    That family member called police while Skorniak drove to a gas station, where he was seen on surveillance video paying for gas inside.

    DiTillio said the victim was too scared to run, but she motioned to someone at the gas station, indicating that she was in danger.

    The bystander wrote down the truck’s license plate number, which was registered to Skorniak’s father. The truck was in Skorniak’s possession at the time, according to DiTillio.

    Skorniak then drove the victim back to the area of her home, but soon saw police surrounding the house, investigating the relative’s call. Skorniak continued to drive away with the victim still in the truck.

    The victim was finally able to convince the suspect to release her, and he dropped her off several blocks from her home. Her clothing ripped from the knife Skorniak used to cut them, she ran to police. 

    After getting the victim's description of the suspect and his truck, investigators identified the rape suspect as Skorniak. A statewide manhunt ensued, and Skorniak was arrested on Jan. 22, 2015 in Santa Barbara, with the same truck in his possession.

    San Diego Police Department Sergeant Rich Forsey testified that at the time of the arrest, memory cards were found inside Skorniak’s truck. On one, there were travel shots and pictures of girls in bikinis on San Diego beaches. On another, there was a short video. Forsey says it shows a woman being sexually assaulted.

    Investigating Officer Forsey testified that the victim identified Skorniak in a photo lineup.

    According to police, Skorniak, a Colorado resident, has served two decades in prison for robbing a bank in Colorado and was on federal parole at the time of the alleged rape. DiTillio said his criminal history dates back to the 1980s, including burglary with an escape and a robbery in 1995.

    Jacob Skorniak at his arraignment on Jan. 26, 2016Jacob Skorniak at his arraignment on Jan. 26, 2016

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    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized $5.7 million worth of drugs and discovered three men crammed into a trunk over the weekend.

    A CBP officer found three Chinese nationals inside a vehicle's trunk at the San Yisdro border crossing on Friday, Dec. 8, at about 7:50 a.m. Officers pulled the men from the trunk and transported them to a secure location.

    The driver, a woman with Mexican nationality, will face federal charges, according to the CBP. 

    CBP officers confirmed the Chinese men were not authorized to enter the United States. They will face removal from the country after the criminal proceedings conclude.

    In various locations, CBP officers found narcotics in vehicle parts such as the floor, gas tank, tires and strapped to bodies.

    In the San Diego and Imperial Valley Counties, officers confiscated 350 pounds of methamphetamine, 134 pounds of cocaine, 30 pounds of heroin, 78 pounds of fentanyl and 135 pounds of marijuana.

    The drugs were worth an estimated total of $5.7 million, according to CBP.

    “CBP officers on a daily basis exude vigilance and service to country,” said Pete Flores, Director of Field Operations for CBP in San Diego, in a statement. “These apprehensions showcase CBP’s efforts in safeguarding America’s borders.”

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    With red-hot embers raining down on homes and rows of palm trees ablaze, San Diego fire crews set out to protect houses caught in the middle of the Lilac Fire – with one firefighter leaving behind a sweet note for a couple whose home was damaged, but saved.

    “Sorry about the door and ceiling. Had to get in there to save the home,” the note, handwritten on a small piece of notepad paper read. It was signed “San Diego Fire,” followed by a small “Good Luck.”

    The note was left behind by Ernie Valdez, an engineer with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) who worked with other firefighters to save the home of Lindsey Jarrous and her husband, Michael, as the wind-driven Lilac Fire ripped through Bonsall in San Diego’s North County last week.

    The 4,100-acre fire, which sparked Thursday around 11:15 a.m. off State Route 76 and Interstate 15, eventually destroyed 151 structures and damaged 56 others.

    The Jarrous’ home was damaged, but spared, thanks to the quick work of SDFD crews. When the couple returned home, they found their residence still standing and the nice note left behind by firefighters apologizing for the damage. Lindsey took to social media Monday to share the note in hopes of finding the heroes.

    On Tuesday, NBC 7 spoke with the scribe – Valdez – who said he wrote the note to let the residents know what had happened.

    “It was just something I did out of the split second,” he recalled. “It was a quick note; I just wanted the homeowner to know we did the damage for a reason. I just decided to write them a quick note, letting them know we’re not a bunch of Neanderthals, just destroying property. We had a purpose for what we did.”

    The mission was to save the home and others like it, by any means necessary.

    Valdez said the house was part of a complex of townhomes in rural Bonsall surrounded by palm trees. As firefighters drove into the complex, those palms were covered in flames as if they’d been individually set on fire, “like candles on a birthday cake.”

    Embers from the trees were shooting down onto rooftops, threatening to burn down the houses, including the Jarrous home.

    “They were 50 to 60-foot Mexican palm trees on fire. They were spitting embers and palm fronds everywhere; that was, in turn, catching yards on fire, houses on fire, burning our firefighters on the neck – everything,” recounted SDFD Capt. Matthew Praizner.

    When firefighters reached the Jarrous’ home, the embers were overwhelming the property. They kicked in the door.

    The captain told NBC 7 that when his crew went into the home, he immediately noticed the residents’ Christmas decorations.

    “There was so much love and warmth in the house,” he said. “And we said, ‘We will do whatever we possibly had to give Christmas to these people.’”

    Firefighters ran to an attic space on the second floor where Praizner said the fire was deep-seeded, in the insulation. Valdez said the attack was swift and aggressive, all to keep the home from being ravaged by the fire.

    “The whole house would’ve burned down – absolutely, for sure,” Praizner added.

    Valdez was providing water to the firefighters through their hoses. With the weight of the water on top of the drywall, the rooftop of the Jarrous home collapsed into a bedroom.

    Still, firefighters were able to put out the fire.

    On a final walkthrough of the property, Valdez noticed the mess left behind in the home.

    “The mess we left from our boot prints, to where the hose line was dragged through, to the roof falling on their bedroom furniture,” he explained.

    He remembered he had a notepad and pen on him, and quickly wrote the residents a note, leaving it on an entertainment center in the living room.

    “I wrote this to let someone know why we caused the damage we did, even though their home was still standing,” he said. “Even though we are the fire department, we are still a customer service department.”

    The Jarrous’ are certainly appreciative of the work of Valdez, Praizner and their crew.

    “We are so so so very grateful for the firefighters who saved our home!” Lindsey’s Instagram post read, in part. “Although we have damage (like water damage and our bedroom ceiling being on the floor) we have our home! We feel very blessed!!”

    NBC 7 caught up with the couple Tuesday. They are newlyweds and this will be their first Christmas as a married couple. Thanks to the firefighters, they'll be able to spend the holidays in their home, where the Christmas tree and decorations still stand.

    Michael told NBC 7 they were so moved by the letter from Valdez, he now keeps the piece of paper safely tucked away in his wallet. 

    "I was really touched. The fact that they made a strong effort to preserve our home; this is the place for us," he said, looking at his wife and holding back tears. "We're just grateful."

    "(The note) was just really, really thoughtful, in the midst of all the chaos, they were able to even say sorry that they damaged some of our stuff, but they saved most of it," Lindsey added.

    Michael said he writes notes to his wife every morning before he heads out for his very early shift at work. Lindsey leaves notes for him, too. Since notes are something the couple shares often, the note from Valdez tugged at their heartstrings.

    "Notes are a big thing for us," said Lindsey. "So, that was special."

    The couple said, in their home, notes are a way to say "I love you" when the other person isn't around. They keep every note and never thought they'd be adding one from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department to their collection.

    "We're blessed by their sacrifice and grateful to God for giving them courage to save our home," Lindsey added.

    As of 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Lilac Fire was 92 percent contained. Cal Fire said a total of 1,659 fire personnel had worked on the fire since Thursday.

    Photo Credit: Lindsey Jarrous/NBC 7 San Diego
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    Ernie Valdez, an engineer with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, left behind this note after saving a newlywed couple's home during the Lilac Fire.Ernie Valdez, an engineer with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, left behind this note after saving a newlywed couple's home during the Lilac Fire.

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    A deadlocked jury prompted a judge to declare a mistrial Tuesday in San Diego in the case of a former U.S. Navy commander accused of trying to rape a Navy colleague.

    The mistrial was announced after the jury came back with a vote of 11 to 1 to convict John M. Neuhart II of assault with intent to commit rape during a burglary and attempted forcible rape.

    Neuhart will appear in court again on Dec. 20 to determine if there will be a new trial.

    During the trial, jurors heard a recording of the alleged victim repeatedly and loudly telling the defendant "no," "stop" and "get off me."

    "This was about rape, power, and what he thought was (the alleged victim’s) submissiveness," prosecutor Jennifer Tag told the jury in closing arguments last week. "But she did say 'No.' She did fight back. She did scream as if she was being murdered in her own house."

    The alleged victim is a Navy lieutenant, who was once under Neuhart's command in a helicopter squadron. Neuhart has said he was trying to get the woman, identified as "Kristin B.,"  to agree to sex even though she was so drunk she fell off a bar stool, could not walk straight and was slurring her words.

    A key piece of evidence in the case is video from Neuhart’s phone that captured the incident at the woman’s Valencia Park home on Sept. 12, 2016.

    The prosecutor acknowledged that Kristin B. had been drinking with Neuhart earlier at the rooftop bar at the downtown Manchester Grand Hyatt. But the prosecutor reminded jurors that, "There’s no consent if someone’s drunk. There’s no consent if someone’s saying no."

    She urged jurors to not to focus on the victim’s actions, including portions of a hotel surveillance video that the defense said shows the woman kissing and embracing Neuhart. The prosecutor reminded jurors that Neuhart, not the alleged victim, is the one on trial.

    "Rape victims are always questioned," the prosecutor said. "Why? They shouldn’t be. We have to focus on the defendant, and what he did. Because he’s the one who’s doing what’s illegal."

    She also denounced attacks on the alleged victim’s credibility by the defense as, "Literally the worst case of victim-blaming I’ve ever seen."

    Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong reminded jurors that the alleged victim has made inconsistent statements about what happened before and during the alleged sexual assault.

    He said the hotel surveillance video showed that Kristin and Neuhart were "…kissing, hugging and carrying on like a couple" in the hours before they went to the alleged victim’s home. In his closing argument, Armstrong said the alleged victim had many opportunities to get away from Neuhart at the bar, in the ride to her home and at her home.

    Armstrong also focused on what he said was the prosecution’s failure to prove that Neuhart had any intent to rape the alleged victim.

    He urged jurors to review the hotel surveillance video and the cell phone video that the defendant recorded at the alleged victim’s home.

    "There’s bizarre behavior… but there’s insufficient proof, especially beyond a reasonable doubt, that he intended to commit rape," Armstrong said.

    Armstrong acknowledged that the jurors might not like how Neuhart acted that night, or how he may have used his rank to intimidate Kristin. But Armstrong told jurors,"You don’t have to like him. You don’t have to hug him in the hallway. But please, don’t make a rash decision. There’s no shame in acquitting Mr. Neuhart."

    Later Tuesday, Armstrong released the following statement about the mistrial declaration:

    “I have mixed feelings about the result. I obviously wanted not-guilty verdicts across the board, but I am also relieved that the jury did not convict Commander Neuhart of any crimes. I appreciate the lone juror who held out and voted not-guilty on the most serious counts. This was a very difficult trial for everyone, and I am hopeful that we eventually get the result that we want. As for Commander Neuhart, he does not wish to make a statement at this time."

    The video Neuhart shot on his cell phone was a key part of the evidence in the case, and a focal point of the prosecutor’s closing argument. Tag played a tightly edited version of the tape in her rebuttal, in which jurors heard Kristin tell Neuhart 90 times to stop trying to have sex with her.

    During the trial, Neuhart, who testified in his own defense, said he shot the video because he wanted proof that any sexual activity was consensual. He said such a recording would provide him with evidence that he did not assault the alleged victim, and protect him from repercussions to his military career.

    But the prosecutor said Neuhart videotaped the encounter because he wanted a record of what he thought would be a sexual conquest.

    "This video was a trophy," the prosecutor told jurors. "He took it so he could look at it later."

    Photo Credit: NBC 7