California’s Wine Country Adapting to Annual Wildfire Threat

Harvest season in Northern California’s wine country is what dream weddings are made of: ripe grapevines and golden sunsets provide ceremonies an alluring backdrop that every year draws millions of visitors.

But harvest season now overlaps with fire season as wildfires, too, have become a yearly reality in the region.

In three of the past four years, major wildfires driven by a changing climate have devastated parts of the world-famous region, leaving little doubt that it’s vulnerable to smoke, flames and blackouts in the fall.

Winds Fanned California Fires and Kept Thousands of Evacuees Away

Crews tried to beat back two out-of-control wildfires in Southern California on Tuesday that have kept tens of thousands of people out of their homes.

Fierce winds that drove twin fires through brushy hills near cities in Orange County a day earlier were expected to pick back up, although not to the earlier extremes, according to the National Weather Service.

Southern California Edison reported to regulators that it was investigating whether its equipment might have sparked the Silverado Fire near the city of Irvine. The utility said a wire that lashed a telecommunications line to a supporting cable may have struck a 12,000-volt conducting line above it.

Power Outages in California as Winds Boost Fire Danger

Large swaths of California had no electricity Monday as utilities tried to prevent the chance of their equipment sparking wildfires while the fire-weary state was buffeted by powerful winds and dangerously dry weather conditions.

About 300,000 power customers, more than 1 million people, were in the dark as officials issued warnings for what could be the strongest winds for California this year.

North of San Francisco, a Mount St. Helena weather station recorded a hurricane-force gust of 89 mph late Sunday and sustained winds of 76 mph.

Monitor: PG&E in California Prioritized Targets Over Reducing Wildfire Risk

PG&E Corp. prioritized meeting inspection targets over meaningful reduction of wildfire risk, according to a monitor overseeing the utility’s program of trimming trees and vegetation that pose a threat of igniting devastating blazes in California.

Among the court-appointed compliance monitor’s findings: The company failed to conduct detailed climbing inspections of 967 transmission structures located in high-fire risk areas before the start of peak wildfire season. Wind damage to one such tower was the cause of the state’s deadliest fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.

California Could See More Fire-Prevention Power Shutoffs

Electricity may be shut off to 50,000 Northern California utility customers this week to try to prevent power lines from sparking and igniting new wildfires during a predicted new round of gusty, hot and dry weather.

Customers in parts of 19 counties and in two tribal communities were notified Monday of a potential public safety power shutoff starting as early as Wednesday evening, Pacific Gas & Electric said.

California Heat Wave Prompts Power Shutdowns, Wildfire Danger

More than 50,000 California utility customers were without power and others around the state were urged to conserve electricity Thursday amid a fall heat wave that brought another round of extreme wildfire danger.

The National Weather Service issued heat advisories through Friday for temperatures in the 90s and even triple digits in many parts of the state.

Red-flag warnings for extreme fire danger were in place for much of the San Francisco Bay Area where winds bringing hot, dry gusts of up to 55 mph (88.5 kph) were expected to pose a threat of sparking new blazes in a region that already has seen some of the worst wildfires in state history.

California Wildfire is State’s First to hit 1 Million Acres

(TNS) - A monster fire the likes of which has never been seen before in California has emerged out of the dystopian pall of wildfire and smoke that has blanketed the state.

The August Complex wildfire, which started out as 37 different fires in Mendocino National Forest, surpassed 1 million acres Monday, by far the largest conflagration in recorded state history, and it is still burning.

The ignominious milestone comes during a year that has already seen more flames than ever in the state. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, at least 31 people have been killed and choking smoke has darkened the skies from Eureka to San Diego.

Maps and Resources to Stay up on California’s Record Wildfire Season

(TNS) - The Bay Area and California are suffering a record-shattering wildfire season this year. Most recently, the Glass Fire burning in Sonoma and Napa counties has burned more than 40,000 acres and forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 people.

If you have not yet assembled an emergency plan, now is the time. No matter where you are in California, it’s important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

When a wildfire evacuation is ordered, departing immediately and efficiently is paramount. If the crisis has already struck and you’re scrambling to respond, it can be hard to get the evacuation information you need. A matter of minutes can make a huge difference to your safe escape from a fire zone.

Fire Watchers in Orange County, Calif., go Virtual Because of Pandemic

(TNS) - Fire watchers tasked with helping prevent wildfires in Orange County will use virtual monitoring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Orange County Fire Watch is using the virtual program in conjunction with its normal in-person monitoring activities.

OC Fire Watch is managed by Irvine Ranch Conservancy for OC Parks and the cities of Irvine and Newport Beach.

Tony Pointer, the conservancy’s fire watch manager, said the new system is crucial to keep volunteers safe, while maintaining adequate wildfire monitoring.

As Wildfires Spread, Public Safety Tech Startups Lack Venture Capitalists’ Backing

Silicon Valley’s innovation engine has been slow to produce useful new tools to help firefighters like Dave Winnacker extinguish the deadly blazes that each year fill California’s skies with smoke.

Winnacker, a fire district chief who led a team against the 2017 fires that scorched vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Valley, is interested in tools that can spot fires early and ease evacuations.

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