California, which has seen its eight largest recorded wildfires since 2017, is in a “heightened state of alert,” according to a new report that calls for urgent policy actions.
The report was released on Wednesday and also discussed in a Zoom conference by a panel of experts the same day.
The panel coincidentally occurred the same day that California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara ordered insurance companies to preserve 209,881 residential property insurance policies held by wildfire survivors included in an earlier emergency declaration, bringing the total statewide to 618,700 policyholders across 31 counties who were granted temporary protection from non-renewals or cancellations by insurers.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday marked the third anniversary of California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire by announcing that nearly 100,000 damaged trees have been removed and debris cleaned up from some 11,000 properties.
The Camp Fire that erupted on Nov. 8, 2018, in the Sierra Nevada foothills killed 85 people, destroyed nearly 19,000 homes, businesses and other buildings and virtually razed the town of Paradise.
About 1,000 homes in the area northeast of San Francisco have been rebuilt and reconstruction continues on others, but entire blocks of Paradise remain little more than empty lots.
California is encouraging more use of fire to fight fire, such as when deliberately set burns were recently used to protect giant sequoias from a raging wildfire.
But sometimes what are known as prescribed fires themselves spread out of control, causing their own extensive damage.
A bill that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Wednesday adds legal protections for private landowners and those who manage the blazes by raising the legal standard for seeking wildfire suppression costs from simple negligence to gross negligence.
Such costs can include not only fighting the fire, but related rescues and investigations.
Thousands of people were under evacuation orders Friday and many others were on notice to be ready to flee as a destructive wildfire raged in a drought-stricken forest in California’s far north.
A woman suspected of starting the Fawn Fire was under arrest, authorities said.
The fire in the Mountain Gate area north of the city of Redding covered more than 9 square miles and was 10% contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
PG&E Corp. told a judge it has put into place new safety measures that would have resulted in power being cut to a utility line suspected of sparking the second-largest wildfire in California history.
The California utility giant said it changed safety settings on its equipment so electricity can be shut off more quickly in the case of a disturbance or fault on certain lines located in high-fire risk areas, according to a court filing submitted Friday. The move was made after the start of the Dixie Fire in July to help reduce the threat of major wildfires in California in light of the extreme drought conditions and dry vegetation, PG&E said.
Several massive blazes have plagued Northern California this year, and now it could be Southern California’s turn.
The Dixie and Caldor fires continue to do damage in Northern California, putting the state at more than 2.2 million acres burned this year, according to CalFire. The Caldor Fire is at 219,267 acres and 68% contained, and the Dixie fire has burned 960,470 acres and is 75% contained.
The state’s wildfire season has been bad enough that California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued notices to insurers alerting them to cease non-renewals and cancellations of insurance coverage for communities with wildfire emergencies.
Some 14,000 firefighters facing changing weather conditions battled more than a dozen large wildfires across California, including a growing blaze that was slowly pushing toward the Lake Tahoe resort region.
Winds and temperatures were expected to pick up in coming days while humidity drops, adding to the challenges endured by crews working in rugged terrain.
More than 13,500 firefighters were working Monday to contain a dozen large California wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands of people to flee to safety.
After an extensive review of fire damage, Gov. Gavin Newsom requested a presidential major disaster declaration for eight counties, Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services, told a briefing near Sacramento.
If approved, the declaration would provide a wide range of assistance including housing, food aid, unemployment and governmental emergency costs, Ghilarducci said.