Experts say urban sprawl, climate change heighten wildfire risk

A fire that started in a rural community in Northern California underscored a new reality in the state when days later it suddenly roared through neighborhoods on the edge of the city of Redding: Urban areas are increasingly vulnerable to wildfires.

In the last year, neighborhoods in the Northern California wine country city of Santa Rosa and the Southern California beach city of Ventura have been devastated.

Hotter weather attributed to climate change is drying out vegetation, creating more intense fires that spread quickly from rural areas to city subdivisions, climate and fire experts say. But they also blame municipalities that are expanding housing into previously undeveloped areas.

California Workers’ Comp Changes Helping System, Division Chief Says

California’s workers’ compensation system has undergone numerous changes since the implementation of the sweeping reforms that started in 2013 with Senate Bill 863.

In the last few years medical provider fraud has been addressed by subsequent new laws, a plague of liens that burdened the system are being addressed, and there’s even a new drug formulary.

9 California Restaurants Cited for Failing to Provide Workers’ Comp

A joint enforcement strike force issued more than $200,000 in administrative fines to nine Contra Costa County, Calif. restaurants for failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance.

Investigators from the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, Department of Industrial Relations’ Labor Commissioner’s Office, and Employment Development Department conducted surprise inspections in June and July at Contra Costa County restaurants suspected of evading the obligation to provide workers’ comp insurance to employees.

California Governor Taking PG&E Closer to Fire Law Changes

California utility giants PG&E Corp. and Edison International are one step closer to changing a state law that has exposed them to billions of dollars in wildfire liabilities.

Late Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a bill that would require a court to consider whether a utility acted “reasonably” when deciding whether it should end up on the hook for fire damages. Brown said the proposal wouldn’t affect the potential liabilities PG&E and Edison face for blazes that devastated the state in 2017. Still, it’s a win for PG&E, which has been lobbying hard to change a policy that holds utilities responsible for the costs of wildfires their equipment caused, even if they weren’t negligent.

Study Examines California Worker’s Comp Prescription Drug Outcomes Under New Formulary

A new analysis offers a preliminary look at Utilization Review and Independent Medical Review outcomes involving pharmaceutical requests for California injured workers since the state implemented a workers’ compensation formulary in January.

The analysis from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute issued on Friday shows that the proportion of UR decisions involving prescription drug requests fell from 44.5 percent in the pre-formulary period to 40.7 percent in the first five months of 2018.

Deadly Ferguson Wildfires Threaten Access to Yosemite Park

The Ferguson wildfires have been spreading in Mariposa County, California on the western edge of Yosemite National Park for days, burning 27 square miles and taking the life of one firefighter.

The Mercury News reported that more than 1,400 firefighters have been on the scene trying to protect 100 nearby homes and businesses that are in the fire’s path as it moves south and east.

The fires began July 13 at about 8:30 p.m. and by July 15 had nearly doubled to 9,300 acres. On Wednesday it was at 17,319 acres and 5% contained. And while authorities have not declared an official cause, Colin Gannon, senior data analyst at Four Twenty Seven, which studies the economic risk of climate change, said weather and environmental conditions are certainly contributing factors.

Deadly Yosemite Fire Grows to 4,310 Acres, Evacuations Ordered

(TNS) — With high temperatures and steep, rugged terrain hampering firefighters, a deadly wildfire along the Merced River near Yosemite National Park quadrupled in size overnight and pushed closer to the park Sunday.

The Ferguson fire in Mariposa County had burned through 4,310 acres and was just 2 percent contained Sunday evening, fire officials said. Some 500 firefighters were working the blaze on the ground with support from aircraft.

No structures had burned but 108 were threatened as firefighters worked to protect structures along Highway 140 and prevent the blaze from crossing Ferguson Ridge.

Marin County, Calif., Explores Potential for Drone Program

(TNS) — The Marin County Sheriff’s Office is getting ready to launch a new “unmanned aerial systems” program.

Sheriff’s Capt. David Augustus steered away from using the word “drone” when talking about the program, set to begin in 60 to 90 days.

“I don’t like that word,” Augustus said. “Drones have an inference of military surveillance or weaponry. That’s not what these are.”

Will California Wildfires Be Worse This Year?

As blame for California’s wildfires rises over Sacramento like smoke from last year’s blazes, the state is being forced to confront the possibility that it’ll happen again in 2018.

California’s drought is worsening, and blazes have charred more acres in the first six months of this year than they did in the same period in 2017, a year that ultimately set records for destruction and deaths. The state is covered with dried-out brush and the skeletal branches of 129 million trees killed by a bark-beetle infestation. Hundreds of miles of electric transmission lines run through the dead forests and crisscross hills crowned with golden, dried grass.

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