Wednesday, May 12, 2021 - 08:15 External News

California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week expanded a drought emergency to a large swath of the nation’s most populous state while seeking more than $6 billion in multiyear water spending as one of the warmest, driest springs on record threatens another severe wildfire season across the American West.

The Democratic governor said he is acting amid “acute water supply shortages” in northern and central parts of California as he called again for voluntary conservation. Yet the state is in relatively better shape than it was when the last five-year drought ended in 2017, he said, as good habits have led to a 16% reduction in water usage.

Thursday, May 6, 2021 - 10:15 External News

A federal judge is weighing whether Pacific Gas & Electric violated its criminal probation by sparking a wildfire north of San Francisco that destroyed more than 100 homes and injured six firefighters in October 2019.

Prosecutors and attorneys for PG&E appeared at a hearing Tuesday before U.S. District Judge William Alsup, a month after the Sonoma County district attorney charged the company with five felony and 28 misdemeanor counts for a fire that destroyed 374 buildings and launched the largest evacuation in the county’s history, with nearly 100,000 people forced to flee.

Friday, April 16, 2021 - 06:00 External News

California officials on Thursday voted to toughen oversight of Pacific Gas & Electric, saying the utility had largely failed to perform required tree-trimming work near power lines in areas with the highest risk of wildfires.

The unanimous vote by the California Public Utilities Commission comes as the fire-prone state has stepped up scrutiny of utility efforts to mitigate wildfire risk. Climate change is fueling increasingly frequent and intense blazes in the state that are often ignited by power infrastructure.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 - 09:45 External News

California will authorize $536 million for wildfire mitigation and forest management projects before the worst of the fire season strikes later this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders said.

That more than doubles $200 million in recent annual spending, advocates said, and wildfire preparedness grants were dropped entirely last year when the state prematurely anticipated a pandemic-driven budget shortfall.

Armed now with an unexpected multi-billion-dollar surplus, lawmakers plan to add the money to this fiscal year’s budget before considering even more in the new spending plan that takes effect July 1.

Monday, April 12, 2021 - 09:00 External News

La Niña, the cooling of the equatorial Pacific that shifts weather patterns the world over, is fading away. But California may still be prone to dryness, and the U.S. Gulf Coast faces the risk of another busy hurricane season.

Water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean will likely return to normal in the next few months, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said in a recent report.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - 09:45 External News

Roughly three dozen pieces of California legislation are directly related to wildfire, and while those bills should hold much interest for the insurance community, there are other bills making their rounds that should draw a great deal of concern.

So far 2,369 bills have been introduced in state Legislature this year, according to John Norwood of Norwood Associates, an industry lobbyist who also represents the California Insurance Wholesalers Association.

Norwood said he’s by encouraged by all the attention California’s wildfires are getting.

Monday, March 29, 2021 - 09:00 External News

A federal judge overseeing Pacific Gas & Electric’s criminal probation said Tuesday that he is considering requiring the utility to be more aggressive about turning off its electricity lines near tall trees, a plan that could double the number of power outages for some Northern California counties over the next decade.

The proposal outlined during a two-hour court hearing is the latest effort to prevent the utility’s equipment from sparking more deadly wildfires by reducing the likelihood that trees could fall into the utility’s long-neglected electrical equipment. U.S. District Judge William Alsup is overseeing PG&E’s safety precautions as part of the utility’s criminal probation after its natural gas lines blew up a suburban neighborhood south of San Francisco in 2010.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021 - 08:30 External News

A Northern California wildfire that killed four people and destroyed more than 200 buildings last year was sparked when tree branches came into contact with Pacific Gas & Electric power lines, officials said in a report.

Investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection seized equipment belonging to PG&E in the weeks after the Zogg Fire tore through rural communities in Shasta and Tehama counties last September and October.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 09:30 External News

Sonoma County officials say they will add artificial intelligence technology to help fight wildfires with a 24-7 monitor to track fire outbreaks.

The technology will be added to the county’s network of wildfire detection cameras that monitor California’s backcountry to spot the first outbreak of flames. Many of the cameras are affixed to existing radio communication towers.

“This early detection technology will provide emergency managers and first responders with round-the-clock monitoring, a sophisticated addition we are excited to add to our alert and warning toolkit,” Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins said.

Friday, March 12, 2021 - 11:45 External News

The wave of COVID-19 claims that hit the California workers’ compensation system at the end of 2020 has subsided for the time being as the number of claims reported to the state Division of Workers’ Compensation for February fell to the lowest level in a year, an analysis by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute Shows.

The CWCI report shows the projected ultimate claim count for February came in at 4,533 cases, down nearly 90% from the record 43,158 claims projected for December.

The figures from CWCI’s COVID-19/Non-COVID-19 Interactive Application show that after surging to an all-time high in December, the monthly COVID-19 claim count fell by more than 50% in January, a decrease that coincided with the steep drop in new coronavirus cases in the state.

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