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Update: California’s Wildfires

Posted By Staff reporter, Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Before we get to the myriad of problems facing California from wildfire, let’s take a quick look at a bipartisan push in Congress and the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.


It has been signed into law by the president and explores using drones to manage and fight wildfire, and instructs the Department of the Interior and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to find ways to make it happen.


The law also tells the two departments to work with states to help them with their firefighting efforts. And the PIA Western Alliance states of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Alaska — all devastated by wildfire — could use that assistance.


Meanwhile, in the Golden State, the California Attorney General’s office and the district attorneys of Sonoma, Napa, Humboldt and Lake Counties say they are not going to criminally prosecute Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) for the fires that devastated Northern California on October 8, 2017.


Those 20 fires killed 46 people and destroyed thousands of structures including homes and businesses. Over 100,000 people had to be evacuated.


While PG&E is off the hook criminally, and since sparks from its power lines during a storm with heavy winds caused the fires, it still faces billions of dollars in civil damage claims. In a joint statement, the district attorneys and the state attorney general’s office said, “Proving PG&E failed in their duty to remove trees was made particularly difficult in this context as the locations where the fires occurred, and where physical evidence could have been located, were decimated by the fires”


Meanwhile, investigators in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties have determined that power lines owned by Southern California Edison (SCE) banging together during high winds are the cause of 2017’s Thomas Fire.


It burned for a month and destroyed hundreds of homes.


In a statement on the 71-page report, the Ventura County Fire Department said, “A high wind event caused the power lines to come into contact with each other, creating an electrical arc. The electrical arc deposited hot, burning or molten material onto the ground, in a receptive fuel bed, causing the fire. The common term for this situation is called ‘line slap,’ and the power line in question is owned by Southern California Edison.”


Unlike, PG&E — who accepts the blame — Southern California Edison immediately refuted the report and said it provided key pieces of evidence that investigators ignored. SCE said the fire started 12-minutes before its system reported any troubles.


“SCE provided this evidence to CAL FIRE and VCFD investigators; however, the report does not suggest this evidence was considered,” the company said and noted the investigators did not take into account the 12 cameras in the vicinity of the fire’s origin but didn’t keep the footage from 11 of them.


“While SCE greatly admires the first responders and members of the firefighting community who bravely responded to the Thomas Fire, the company is disappointed that VCFD’s investigators failed to preserve critical evidence and seemed to ignore best practices in conducting their origin and cause analysis,” the company continued in its statement.


It’s clear to California Governor Gavin Newsom that changes are needed to how energy companies are regulated and is looking at making changes to the California Public Utilities Commission. It has been highly criticized for how it has regulated utility companies that are now being blamed for most of the state’s devastating wildfires.


The governor — says The Wall Street Journal — recently met with key legislators and analysts from S&P Global Ratings. The newspaper says the subject of discussions is energy company regulation.


Source links: FedScoop, Claims Journal, Santa Barbara Independent Record, CNBC



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Tags:  California Wildfires today  Conservation Management  Insurance content  Recreation Act 

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