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.
The deluge California received from a powerful atmospheric river made streams and waterfalls come alive while coating mountains with snow, but as the storm headed east to the Plains on Tuesday it left the Golden State still deep in drought.
The atmospheric river, a long plume of moisture pulled in from the Pacific, capped a series of back-to-back storm systems that abruptly switched the state’s immediate emergency concerns from wildfires to flooding.
But the long-term problem of a drought that scientists say is part of a warming and drying trend driven by climate change was not washed away.
Californians rejoiced this week when big drops of water started falling from the sky for the first time in any measurable way since the spring, an annual soaking that heralds the start of the rainy season following some of the hottest and driest months on record.
But as the rain was beginning to fall on Tuesday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom did a curious thing: He issued a statewide drought emergency and gave regulators permission to enact mandatory statewide water restrictions if they choose.
A weather-roiling La Nina appears to have emerged across the equatorial Pacific, setting the stage for worsening droughts in California and South America, frigid winters in parts of the U.S. and Japan and greater risks for the world’s already strained energy and food supplies.
The phenomenon—which begins when the atmosphere reacts to a cooler patch of water over the Pacific Ocean—will likely last through at least February, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. There is a 57% chance it be a moderate event, like the one that started last year, the center said. While scientists may need months to confirm whether La Nina has definitely returned, all the signs are indicating it’s here.
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.