A Necessary Step for Reducing Fires in California


“The Governor of California is protecting PG&E’s bottom line.” — David Lynch

The Governor of California is not saying a word about who is responsible for the fires. But a recent release from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection below makes it quite clear that there is a legal basis for making sure that someone is held accountable to a very serious degree for the unprecedented horror now plaguing the Golden State.

After extensive and thorough investigations, CAL FIRE investigators have determined that 12 Northern California wildfires in the October 2017 Fire Siege were caused by electric power and distribution lines, conductors and the failure of power poles.

The October 2017 Fire Siege involved more than 170 fires and burned at least 245,000 acres in Northern California. About 11,000 firefighters from 17 states and Australia helped battle the blazes.

CAL FIRE investigators were dispatched to the fires last year and immediately began working to determine their origin and cause. CAL FIRE investigators continue to investigate the remaining 2017 fires, both in October and December, and will release additional reports as they are completed. The cause of four Northern California fires were released on May 25.
Below is a summary of the findings from the 12 completed investigations:

The Redwood Fire, in Mendocino County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 36,523 acres, destroying 543 structures. There were nine civilian fatalities and no injuries to firefighters. CAL FIRE has determined the fire started in two locations and was caused by tree or parts of trees falling onto PG&E power lines.
The Sulphur Fire, in Lake County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 2,207 acres, destroying 162 structures. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE investigators determined the fire was caused by the failure of a PG&E owned power pole, resulting in the power lines and equipment coming in contact with the ground.

The Cherokee Fire, in Butte County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 8,417 acres, destroying 6 structures. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE investigators have determined the cause of the fire was a result of tree limbs coming into contact with PG&E power lines.

The 37 Fire, in Sonoma County, started the evening of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 1,660 acres, destroying 3 structures. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE investigators have determined the cause of the fire was electrical and was associated with the PG&E distribution lines in the area.

The Blue Fire, in Humboldt County, started the afternoon of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 20 acres. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE investigators have determined a PG&E power line conductor separated from a connector, causing the conductor to fall to the ground, starting the fire.

The Norrbom, Adobe, Partrick, Pythian and Nuns fires were part of a series of fires that merged in Sonoma and Napa counties. These fires started in the late-night hours of Oct. 8 and burned a combined total of 56,556 acres, destroying 1355 structures. There were three civilian fatalities.

CAL FIRE investigators determined the Norrbom Fire was caused by a tree falling and coming in contact with PG&E power lines. CAL FIRE investigators determined the Adobe Fire was caused by a eucalyptus tree falling into a PG&E powerline. CAL FIRE investigators determined the Partrick Fire was caused by an oak tree falling into PG&E powerlines. CAL FIRE investigators determined the Pythian Fire was caused by a downed powerline after PG&E attempted to reenergize the line CAL FIRE investigators determined the Nuns Fire was caused by a broken top of a tree coming in contact with a power line.

The Pocket Fire, in Sonoma County, started the early morning hours of Oct. 9 and burned a total of 17,357 acres, destroying 6 structures. There were no injuries. CAL FIRE has determined the fire was caused by the top of an oak tree breaking and coming into contact with PG&E power lines. The Atlas Fire, in Napa County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 51,624 acres, destroying 783 structures. There were six civilian fatalities. CAL FIRE investigators determined the fire started in two locations. At one location, it was determined a large limb broke from a tree and came into contact with a PG&E power line. At the second location, investigators determined a tree fell into the same line.

The Atlas Fire, in Napa County, started the evening of Oct. 8 and burned a total of 51,624 acres, destroying 783 structures. There were six civilian fatalities. CAL FIRE investigators determined the fire started in two locations. At one location, it was determined a large limb broke from a tree and came into contact with a PG&E power line. At the second location, investigators determined a tree fell into the same line. CAL FIRE’s investigations have been referred to the appropriate county District Attorney’s offices for review in eight of the 12 fires – Sulphur, Blue, Norrbom, Partrick, Pythian, Adobe, Pocket and Atlas – due to evidence of alleged violations of state law.

We do hope that concerned citizens will rise up and demand that someone — a few? — be sent to prison and fined. For we’re talking about death and property destruction to an historic degree here. And more. The air quality in parts of the Golden State is now worse on many days than it is in New Delhi or Beijing, and that dynamic looks like — as things stand — an ongoing abomination.

Is it off to suggest that the state take over the utility?

Isadore and Isaac Claudia can be contacted at currentmomentum@gmail.com.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Paul D November 16, 2018 1:53 am 

    PG&E really cannot be blamed for these powerline-related fire incidents. They are unavoidable as long as they must provide electric service for the environmentally unsustainable bourgeois “lifestyle” of sprawling exurban developments among the chaparral and scrub-forest – which become tinder dry in the rainless California summers. Besides the fire hazards, the reliance on heavy automobile usage of such a lifestyle has enormous environmental impacts. The biggest single thing that can be done to reduce the California fire risk is for the residents to move into compact urban neighborhoods that are walkable and well-served with public transit. government incentive programs should be extablished to facilitate this.

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