US Starts Criminal Probe Into PG&E Role in California Wildfire

Federal officials have initiated a criminal investigation into PG&E Corp.’s potential role in starting California’s largest wildfire of the year.

On Sept. 24, the US Forest Service removed one of the utility’s transmission poles from the site in Placer County where the Mosquito fire started, PG&E said Monday in a filing. USFS didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about the probe.

California Company Says Machine Failure May Have Caused Wildfire

A wood products company said that it is investigating whether a fire that killed two people as it swept through a Northern California town was caused by the possible failure of a water-spraying machine used to cool ash at its veneer mill.

Roseburg Forest Products Co. also announced that although the investigation was not complete, it was planning to provide up to $50 million for a community restoration fund.

The Mill Fire erupted Sept. 2 at the company’s facility in the small town of Weed on Interstate 5, about 280 miles northeast of San Francisco.

McKinney Fire in California Growing, Still out of Control

The McKinney Fire in Northern California was still out of control on Wednesday despite cloudy, cooler conditions on Tuesday night.

The fire has burned nearly 90 square miles since it started on Friday in an unpopulated area in Klamath National Forest.

CalFire listed the blaze as 0% contained as of Wednesday afternoon, unchanged from its level of containment on Monday.

Multiple evacuation orders and warnings have remained in effect since Monday.

Western U.S. Wildfires Explode in Size Amid Hot, Windy Conditions

Wildfires in California and Montana exploded in size overnight amid windy, hot conditions and were quickly encroaching on neighborhoods, forcing evacuation orders for over 100 homes Saturday, while an Idaho blaze was spreading.

In California’s Klamath National Forest, the fast-moving McKinney fire, which started Friday, went from charring just over 1 square mile to scorching as much as 62 square miles by Saturday in a largely rural area near the Oregon state line, according to fire officials. The fire burned down at least a dozen residences and wildlife was seen fleeing the area to avoid the flames.

Crews Protect Homes as California Wildfire Burns Near Yosemite

A destructive wildfire near Yosemite National Park burned out of control through tinder-dry forest on Sunday and had grown into one of California’s biggest blazes of the year, forcing thousands of residents to flee remote mountain communities.

Some 2,000 firefighters battled the Oak Fire, along with aircraft and bulldozers, facing tough conditions that includes steep terrain, sweltering temperatures and low humidity, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

“It’s hot out there again today,” Cal Fire spokesperson Natasha Fouts said Sunday. “And the fuel moisture levels are critically low.”

Wildfire Threat Becomes Tool to Fight California Home Builders

Preston Brown knows the risk of wildfire that comes with living in the rural, chaparral-lined hills of San Diego County. He’s lived there for 21 years and evacuated twice.

That’s why he fiercely opposed a plan to build more than 1,100 homes in a fire-prone area he said would be difficult to evacuate safely. Brown sits on the local planning commission, and he said the additional people would clog the road out.

“It’s a very rough area,” Brown said. “We have fires all the time now.”

Yosemite Wildfire Growing as California’s Wildfire Season Develops

A wildfire threatening the largest grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park more than doubled in size in a day, and firefighters were working in difficult terrain Sunday to protect the iconic trees and a small mountain town as the U.S. weathers another very active year for fires.

Campers and residents near the blaze were evacuated but the rest of the sprawling park in California remained open, though heavy smoke obscured scenic vistas and created unhealthy air quality.

“Today it’s actually the smokiest that we’ve seen,” Nancy Phillipe, a Yosemite fire information spokesperson, said Sunday. “Up until this morning, the park has not been in that unhealthy category, but that is where we are now.”

Northern California Wildfire Threatens 500 Buildings

A wildfire that erupted in Northern California forced evacuations as it threatened about 500 homes and other buildings, authorities said.

The Rices Fire erupted at around 2 p.m. near the Yuba River in Nevada County and had spread to more than 900 acres, according to CalFire.

The rural area is in the Sierra Nevada, northeast of Sacramento and about halfway between the state Capitol and the Nevada border.

Insurers Increasingly Concerned for Western U.S. Wildfire Season

As Western wildfires force evacuations in Arizona and California – on the heels of an early and severe wildfire season in New Mexico – insurers are increasingly eyeing the growing risks.

“Insurers are very much concerned about the wildfire situation,” said Arindam Samanta, director of product management for Verisk Underwriting Solutions. “We are talking to dozens of insurers.”

The increased interest has led to increased sales of Verisk’s wildfire modeling and data, Samanta said.

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