California wildfires

WHAT DOES THE PG&E BANKRUPTCY MEAN FOR CALIFORNIA RATEPAYERS AND FIRE VICTIMS?

By Miriam Raftery

January 15, 2019 (San Diego) – Facing enormous potential liabilities for major wildfires in Califiornia, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) has announced that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 29th.

 Cal Fire has blamed PG&E powerlines and other equipment for causing 17 fires in 2017.  The company’s equipment is also being investigated as a likely cause of the deadly Camp Fire that killed 86 people and burned nearly 14,000 homes in Butte County. The utility was also found criminally liable for the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion in 2010.

TRUMP THREATENS TO HALT FEMA PAYMENTS TO CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE VICTIMS, DRAWS BIPARTISAN CRITICISM

 

 

To threaten federal disaster funding is a grave insult to our fire-scarred region and a slap in the face of our brave firefighters. The President and the Governor need to work together and put the public’s safety over politics. I know the county will do its part by continuing to make major investments to improve firefighting and fire prevention.  Supervisor Dianne Jacob

By Miriam Raftery

January 10, 2019 (San Diego) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday stating that he has ordered a halt to Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) funds for California wildfire survivors. His threat has drawn sharp bipartisan criticism from leaders ranging from California’s new Governor to East County’s Supervisor Dianne Jacoband conservative legislators representing fire-ravaged communities.

630 MISSING AS CONFIRMED DEATH TOLL RISES TO 60 IN CAMP FIRE

 

Tragedy raises questions on evacuation notifications, causes and potential utility liability; locally concerns rise over power outages and building in areas where a wildfire could cause  traffic gridlock and mass fatalities

By Miriam Raftery

November 16, 2018 (San Diego) – The Camp Fire’s grim toll has risen to 60 confirmed deaths while the list of missing has skyrocketed to 630 as authorities review 911 calls and other reports.  The Paradise Post has published a list of those missing in the state’s deadliest wildfire, which thus far has burned 142,000 acres. The Post has dropped bundles of its newspapers off at evacuation shelters, since delivery is impossible in a town where 90% of the buildings are now gone.

The blaze has destroyed 9,600 homes and 230 commercial buildings in Butte County, leveling the town of Paradise and also causing severe damage in several nearby communities north of Sacramento. The fire is now 45% contained.

But even those who survived without losing homes or businesses may suffer long term adverse health impacts due to air polluted by chemicals that have burned as the fire scorched through urban areas.   Air quality is rated hazardous across the Sacramento Valley and into San Francisco, where trolley car service has been temporarily halted due to the air pollution.

Meanwhile questions remain as to why so many were trapped and unable to escape. Most of those who perished were elderly and some who did get out report that they received no emergency warnings or evacuation notices. Authorities awaiting confirmation from fire officials reportedly got notices out too late for some residents closest to the monster wind-driven fire.

TRUMP FANS FLAMES BY BLAMING WILDFIRES ON CALIFORNIA, THREATENING TO WITHHOLD FEDERAL FUNDS

 

By Julie Cart, CALmatters

CALmatters is an independent public interest journalism venture covering California state politics and government.

November 11, 2018 (San Diego) - With a quarter-million Californians evacuated from their homes and wildfires so far claiming nine lives, President Donal Trump today took to Twitter and inflamed tensions—blaming California for causing the fires by mismanaging its forests and threatening to cut off federal funds.

CA INSURANCE COMMISSIONER TELLS INSURERS MUDSLIDES IN SANTA BARBARA MUST BE COVERED IF CAUSED BY FIRES

 

Victims encouraged to file claims with insurers

Source: California Insurance Commissioner’s Office

January 29, 2018 (Santa Barbara) -- Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today issued a formal notice to all property and casualty insurance companies reminding them of their duty to cover damages from the recent mudslide and debris flows if it is determined that the ravaging of hillsides and vegetation by the Thomas and other fires was the efficient proximate cause of the mudslides. In general homeowners' insurance policies, excludes flood, mudslide, debris flow and other similar events.

READER’S EDITORIAL: WHY ARE CALIFORNIA’S HOMES BURNING? IT ISN’T NATURAL DISASTER, IT’S BAD PLANNING

 

By Richard Halsey

Photo courtesy ECM news partner 10 News

December 8, 2017 (San Diego) - Large, high-intensity wildfires are an inevitable and natural part of life in California. The destruction of our communities is not. But many of the political leaders we elect and planning agencies we depend upon to create safe communities have failed us. They have allowed developers to build in harm’s way, and left firefighters holding the bag.

53 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS PRESS FOR DISASTER AID FOR CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE SURVIVIVORS, INCLUDING ALL SAN DIEGO MEMBERS

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Smouldering remains of a mobile home park burned in the Tubbs Fire in October 2017;  CC by ATS

December 2, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – Yesterday, 53 members of Congress including all five San Diego-area representatives signed a letter sent to House Appropriations Committee leaders urging that $4.4 billion to aid California wildfire survivors be added to a disaster relief fund. 

The action comes after President Donald Trump previously ignored pleas from California legislators and Governor Jerry Brown, sending a measure to Congress that included funds for hurricane survivors in Texas and Florida, but not a penny to help those who lost homes, businesses or family members in the October California firestorms.

31 DEAD, HUNDREDS MISSING IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

 

Update October 16, 2017:    The death toll is now at least 41, following death of a water truck driver. 

 

By Miriam Raftery, East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts

Photo, left: Courtesy of Cal Fire

October 12, 2017 (San Diego)—The complex of nearly two dozen firestorms raging across northern California have now collectively surpassed in deadliness the 2003 Cedar Fire, which killed 16 people in San Diego County. 

At least 31 people are now confirmed dead across northern California and the toll will likely climb higher, with hundreds of people still missing and dozens of official searchers combing the rubble of burned homes and businesses with dog teams, searching for bodies.

CHIEF’S CORNER: DEALING WITH WILDFIRE SMOKE EFFECTS

 

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

October 12, 2017 (San Diego) -- Wildfires seem to be burning daily in almost every county. You may not live directly in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) however you will likely be impacted by the large amount of smoke generated by these fires.

Particulate matter generated from the smoke is the main public health threat during short-term exposure to wildfire smoke, so it’s crucial to protect yourself.

1,500 STRUCTURES BURNED AS INFERNOS RAGE ACROSS NORTHERN CA FIRES: GOVERNOR DECLARES EMERGENCIES

 

By Miriam Raftery, East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts

October 9, 2017 (San Diego ) – Governor Jerry Brown has declared states of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba Counties due to wildfires that have burned at least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings and killed at least one person, Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott said at a press conference today. There is zero percent containment as of late morning.  At least 16 major fires are burning statewide.

An estimated 20,000 people have been evacuated as fires blacken skies even in Bay Area cities, forced evacuations of hospitals, shut down schools and  threaten thousands more structures in California’s wine region, gold rush towns and even coastal counties.  Many residents fled for their lives during the night as fast-moving flames destroyed wineries, vineyards, major stores and homes, dousing dreams with despair.

CLIMATE CHANGE TO RAISE WILDFIRE RISK SIX-FOLD, STUDY PREDICTS

 

East County News Service

Photo: Lake Morena fire, by Claudia Millerbragg

November 9, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – A new study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society  predicts that the number of extreme fire risk days in California will rise from 10 a year to 60 by the year 2100—a six-fold increase.  The study was conducted by  the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Utah State University scientists.

The scientists found that climate change is already underway and responsible for extreme fire conditions starting in the 1990s, which go beyond normal fluctuations in climate conditions. But there are things that can be done. Besides reducing greenhouse emissions to potentially slow or reverse climate change, investing in more brush clearing and firefighting capacity is critical.

FEINSTEIN URGES PASSAGE OF WILDFIRE DISASTER FUNDING ACT

 

September 16, 2015 (Washington D.C.) – Wildfires, unlike  earthquakes or hurricanes, are not funded as natural disasters---and the money to fight devastating fires is running out.  Now as wildfires ravage our state, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, has issued a statement urging Congress to pass the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. Here is her statement in full:

CAL FIRE CANCELS DAYS OFF FOR FIREFIGHTERS, HAS ALL 18 STATIONS FULLY STAFFED COUNTYWIDE AS FIRES RAGE ACROSS STATE

East County News Service

August 9, 2015 (San Diego's East County)--More than 10,000 firefighters are battling over 17 active wildfires statewide. The largest of these, the Rocky Fire, has consumed nearly 70,000 acres in Lake, Colusa and Yolo Counties. Thunder and lightning continue to spark new fires, while gusty and erratic winds could also create extreme fire growth potential, says Fire Captain Kendal Bortisser, public information officer at CAL FIRE.

While CAL FIRE San Diego continues to support the Northern California wildfires with fire engines, bulldozers, hand crews, and support personnel, Captain Bortisser says, “We are committed to ensuring that firefighting resources are in place here in San Diego County as a top priority.” Days off have been cancelled for all CAL FIRE firefighters and off duty firefighters have been recalled back to work. Additionally, all 18 CAL FIRE stations throughout San Diego County are staffed, he adds.

 CAL FIRE is asking all residents to be careful outdoors. Even simple household chores like cutting dead down dry grass can spark a wildfire if not done the right way with the right tool. To learn more go to www.ReadyForWildfire.org.

Below are updates from CAL FIRE on the wildfires burning statewide as of Friday night:

FIREFIGHTER DIES AS 23 WILDFIRES BURN ACROSS CA

 

 

East County News Service

August 1, 2015 (San Diego) – Governor Brown has called in the National Guard to help battle blazes burning across the state. One firefighter was killed in Northern California, where a red flag is in alert.  Currently firefighters are battling 23 wildfires stateswide. CAL FIRE Captain Kendal Bortisser in San Diego has provided the following update issued Friday night, July 31st:

CAL FIRE PROVIDES UPDATE ON FIRES BURNING STATEWIDE

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: King Fire viewed from Lake Tahoe, by Steve Ellsworth, courtesy Cal Fire Blogspot

September 20, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) --Over 7,800 firefighters continue to battle seven major wildfires burning in California, CAL-FIRE reports. Of greatest concern is the King Fire in El Dorado County, which has burned nearly 81,000 acres and continues to threaten 21,000 structures. A suspected arsonist has been arrested for allegedly starting the King Fire.

Overnight, crews made progress on several fires including full containment on the destructive Boles Fire in Siskiyou County and the Silverado Fire in Orange County. Firefighters continue to mop up on several other fires with full containment expected this weekend for the Courtney Fire in Madera County, the June Fire in Mono County and the Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park.

For details on each of the many fires burning statewide, click "read more" and scroll down.

FEDS FURLOUGH NATIONAL GUARD TECHNICIANS WHO MAINTAIN FIREFIGHTING AIRCRAFT

Supervisors to hear proposal Tuesday urging fast transfer of planes for firefighting from Department of Defense to U.S. Forest Service

By Miriam Raftery

October 5, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Shut-down of the federal government over the spending bill impasse has caused furlough of 2,000 California National Guard technicians who maintain helicopters and cargo planes that respond to major wildfires statewide. Major General David Baldwin has said that “lives are at stake” because of these “inane cuts and work stoppages,” the SF Gate reported

“The federal government needs to grow up, settle its budget mess and remember one of its primary obligations – public safety,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob  told East County Magazine.  “Any furloughs or other cutbacks that undermine aerial firefighting would be a major concern, especially as our region approaches the most dangerous stretch of the wildfire season.”

On Tuesday, Supervisors will hear a proposal by Supervisors Jacob and Greg Cox asking the U.S. Department of Defense to transfer seven surplus C-27 aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service to bolster firefighting resources in San Diego County and other areas.

1800 ACRES OF WILDERNESS SCORCHED IN SAN FELIPE FIRE AMID GROWING QUESTIONS OVER OUT-OF-CONTROL BURN

 

 

Dozers ordered to Volcan Mountain

By Miriam Raftery

“Something will have gone out of us as people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed.” – Wallace Stegner

 

 

May 24, 2013 (Julian) Updated May 29, 2013 – The quote above is inscribed on the Volcan Mountain Foundation webpage, a site devoted to protecting the wilderness preserve. But today, as a raging wildfire that started as a controlled burn encroached, bulldozers were ordered to cut a firebreak on the crest of Volcan Mountain, ECM has learned.

Meanwhile an ECM investigation has raised growing questions over whether this fire could have been prevented.  Those questions include:

  • Why did Cal-Fire order a controlled burn in hot weather just hours after a high wind advisory had expired?
  • Why did the National Weather Service issue a spot fire weather report to Cal-Fire advising lower wind speeds when it has no wind monitor in the valley where the fire occurred?
  • Why was Volcan Mountain Foundatiion advised conditions were too dangerous for it to conduct pile burning, yet Cal-Fire conducted its own controlled burn?
  • Why did fire officials underestimate the potential size of this fire at 500 acres? (It has burned over 1,800 acres and is 60% contained.)
  • Should Cal-Fire’s plan to sharply increase the number of acres it clears statewide be axed given the consequences of this out-of-control burn?

SUPERVISORS ASK YOU TO CONTACT FAA , OPPOSE IMMINENT CLOSURE OF RAMONA AIR TRAFFIC TOWER CRUCIAL FOR FIREFIGHTING: COMMENT DEADLINE IS TOMORROW

 

By Nadin Abbott, photos Tom Abbott

March 12, 2013 (San Diego)—Today, Supervisor Dianne Jacob urged citizens in San Diego County to contact the Federal Aviation Adminstration (FAA) at Closurecomments@FAA.GOV  and oppose closure of the Ramona Airport’s air traffic control tower, a vital component in fighting wildfires and protecting safety of firefighting crews. Tomorrow at 1 p.m. Pacific Standard Time is the deadline for comments.

 The Board learned that the Federal Aviation Administration has targeted the Ramona Air Traffic Control Tower for closure as as early as April 7. This means, according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Ray Cheney, that the airport would revert back to an “uncontrolled airport, where pilots have to avoid each other and announce their intentions.”  

This was the way it was back on June 21, 1995 when there was a midair collision between a United States Forest Service Beechcraft and an NTSB air tanker, leading to the deaths of the air tanker crew. An open space, instead of a controlled space, will increase the risk of mid-air collisions, since a “controlled airport controls the air traffic sequencing.”

MULES TO THE RESCUE AS CALIFORNIA BATTLES FIREFIGHTING BUDGET CUTS

By Miriam Raftery
September 1, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – They’re sure-footed and low tech. They can reach rugged terrain that firefighting equipment and helicopters often can’t—and they’re a lot less expensive.
That’s why in this era of shrinking budgets to battle a growing number of wildfires, California is turning to an old-fashioned means of packing firefighting supplies into remote areas:  mules.

WORST DROUGHT SINCE DUST BOWL FUELING SEVERE WILDFIRES ACROSS U.S.

By Miriam Raftery

August 25, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)—High temperatures and the worst drought since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s have combined to fuel severe wildfires across the U.S.  in the first 8 months of the year, wildfires have scorched nearly 7 million acres—on pace to make 2012 one of the worst years on record. 

SENATOR KEHOE SECURES AUDIT OF STATE’S MUTUAL AID RESPONSE SYSTEM

 

February 20, 2011 (San Diegio) – Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) announced this week that the State Auditor will conduct an investigation of California’s mutual aid response system to learn if budget cuts are undermining the program. Kehoe requested the audit at a Feb. 16 meeting of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

 

“Our mutual aid system, which was created in 1950 and has been a model for the country, is facing challenges as state and local governments slash their budgets,” Kehoe said. “If this system is further strained, it could jeopardize public safety during wildfires, earthquakes, floods, or mudslides. We can’t afford to let that happen.”

CANINE COUNSELORS BRING HOPE TO CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE SURVIVORS

 

By Janice Arenofsky


November 13, 2010 (San Diego’s East County)--As Lois Abrams drove to El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif., her car all but disappeared behind the heavy curtain of smoke and ash stemming from the October 2007 San Diego County wildfires.

BITTERSWEET REMEMBRANCE: A CEDAR FIRE SURVIVOR'S ANNIVERSARY ESSAY

An essay by Vickie Bradeen

 

October 26, 2003 (San Diego's East County)--Today is a day of bittersweet remembrance of October 26, 2003, when I watched the home I grew up in, my parents home of 34 yrs at the time, burn completely to the ground as the powerful, almost angry Cedar Fire consumed every inch of it right before my eyes.