In the Face of a Severe California Wildfire Season, is The Oft-Used ‘Mitigation’ Word Too Little Too Late?

It may have been around 2017 when a true sense of urgency donned on insurers, public officials, residents and regulators in wildfire-prone California, as fires destroyed or damaged more than 10,000 structures in the state, a higher tally than the previous nine years combined.

In terms of property damage, 2017 was the most destructive wildfire season on record in California at the time, with 9,133 fires burning more than 1.2 million acres, and it was after 2017 that the word “mitigation” seemed to appear more prominently and more often in public messaging about wildfires – along with news of warnings about rising homeowners insurance rates, increasing non-renewals, and of course climate change.

Cal/OSHA: Protect Workers from Unhealthy Air due to Wildfire Smoke

Cal/OSHA is cautioning California employers to be prepared to protect workers from unhealthy air due to wildfire smoke.

When workers are at risk form unhealthy air from wildfires, California’s protection from wildfire smoke standard requires employers to take steps such as changing the location of work operations, modifying work schedules or providing proper respiratory protection like N95 respirators.

According to CalFire, there have been over 4,000 wildfire incidents so far in California in 2021 and more than 100 structures have been damaged. Smoke from these wildfires contains chemicals, gases and fine particles that can harm health.

One of the most harmful hazards comes from breathing fine particles in the air (called PM2.5), which can reduce lung function, worsen asthma or other existing heart and lung conditions, and cause coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing, according to Cal/OSHA.

Aftershocks From M6 Earthquake Rattle California, Nevada

Aftershocks have hit the region between Northern California and Nevada Friday after a magnitude 6 earthquake sent large boulders rolling into highways and knocked smaller items off shelves.

The quake shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday was centered south of Lake Tahoe near Walker, a rural community of a few hundred households in the eastern Sierra Nevada. It was felt as far off as Las Vegas and San Francisco, authorities said. Days of aftershocks are expected.

California state emergency crews worked overnight and found minor road damage but no significant impacts to infrastructure, said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. No injuries were immediately reported.

Heat Wave Blankets West as Wildfires Rage in Several States

Firefighters struggled to contain an exploding Northern California wildfire under blazing temperatures as another heat wave blanketed the West, prompting an excessive heat warning for inland and desert areas.

Death Valley in southeastern California’s Mojave Desert reached 128 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service’s reading at Furnace Creek. The shockingly high temperature was actually lower than the previous day, when the location reached 130 F.

If confirmed as accurate, the 130-degree reading would be the hottest high recorded there since July 1913, when Furnace Creek desert hit 134 F, considered the highest measured temperature on Earth.

Following Years of Deadly Wildfires, PG&E Again Vows to Do Better

The nation’s largest utility has long vowed to change its reckless ways, but year after year there’s more death and destruction from Northern California wildfires sparked by Pacific Gas & Electric’s equipment.

CEO Patricia “Patti” Poppe, who took over in January as the company’s fifth leader in less than three years, has pledged to shareholders that the future will get “easier” and “brighter.” That vow will be put to the test as California sinks deeper into drought and fire danger increases.

Containment of Northern California Wildfires Grows, Wind a Concern

Containment of three big wildfires in Northern California has increased but potential for a new round of winds this week was a concern, authorities said Monday.

Containment of the 39-square-mile Lava Fire at the foot of volcanic Mount Shasta jumped to 71% after minimal overnight activity, Shasta-Trinity National Forest said. Remaining evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings.

Labor Crisis Shocking California Restaurants

Sherry Villanueva’s family of Santa Barbara restaurants employed 350 people before the pandemic took hold and darkened dining rooms across California. Now, with the state’s economy officially reopened, about 250 workers are back on the job.

Villanueva would hire 100 more if she could – but she can’t find people to take the openings.

“We are in the midst of a very severe labor shortage,” said Villanueva, owner and managing partner of Acme Hospitality, which operates eight eateries in the popular seaside destination, though two remain closed. With staffs stretched paper-napkin thin, the employees “are doing the job of two people.”

Firefighters in California Working to Contain Large Wildfire

California’s weather moderated after a long siege of extreme heat but firefighters still faced the difficult task of trying to contain a large forest fire in rugged coastal mountains south of Big Sur.

The Willow Fire covered 4.4 square miles of Los Padres National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service said. More than 500 firefighters were on the lines, aided by planes and helicopters.

The fire broke out Thursday evening in the Ventana Wilderness and burned near the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a Buddhist monastery located in a remote valley.

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