Wednesday, August 8, 2018 - 08:00

(TNS) - When a special legislative committee held its first public hearing in response to the North Bay wildfires two weeks ago in Sacramento, there were eight major wildfires burning across California.

When the 10-member bipartisan panel met again Tuesday, the number of conflagrations had doubled, and the marauding Mendocino Complex fires had scorched more than 292,000 acres in three counties or more than 450 square miles.

The hearing, however, was decidedly low key, as representatives from the state’s big three investor-owned utilities and two public power providers, including Healdsburg’s municipal utility, recited the steps they have taken and plan to take to mitigate future wildland blazes.

“There is no normal, there is just uncertainty,” state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said as the hearing opened, noting she had just visited Alaska, packing clothes for chilly weather, and encountered an unnerving series of 75-degree days.

Underscoring California’s predicament, Michael Pickler, the Public Utilities Commission president, said the latest mapping showed that 40 percent of the state is in high-risk fire areas, owing largely to an advancing drought.

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