Gov. Newsom Declares Wildfire Emergency Ahead of New Fires

(TNS) — Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California on Friday and waived environmental regulations to expedite nearly three dozen local forest management projects to protect communities from the deadly wildfires that have decimated regions up and down the state.

The governor's action marks the latest effort by the state to offset the possibility of catastrophe after back-to-back years of savage wildfires that killed more than 100 people and burned nearly 2 million acres in total. The projects will cost a total of $35 million, which will be paid with forest management funds in the 2018-19 budget.

Technology Wildfire Summit Highlights California’s Progress

Fighting wildfires has traditionally been a response driven by experience, but as conditions change, as they have in California, that response becomes more difficult.

Climate change has made the wildfire seasons in California longer and more severe, and that makes response that is based on history and experience difficult. But that’s beginning to change because of technology as more than 700 stakeholders learned this week at the Wildfire Technology Innovation Summit held at California State University, Sacramento.

A recent drought in California and global warming, in part, has led to increasingly intense fires that in 2017 and 2018 killed more than 100 people in 2017 and 2018, burning more than 875,000 acres. The changing conditions have resulted in a fire season that is nearly year-round.

Sea Level Rise Could Hurt California More than Wildfires, Earthquakes

(TNS) - In the most extensive study to date on sea level rise in California, researchers say damage by the end of the century could be far more devastating than the worst earthquakes and wildfires in state history.

A team of U.S. Geological Survey scientists concluded that even a modest amount of sea level rise — often dismissed as a creeping, slow-moving disaster — could overwhelm communities when a storm hits at the same time.

The study combines sea level rise and storms for the first time, as well as wave action, cliff erosion, beach loss and other coastal threats across California. These factors have been studied extensively but rarely together in the same model.

PG&E ‘Unsafe’ Actions, ‘Dismal’ Prevention, Caused Wildfires

(TNS) — PG&E's "unsafe conduct" caused a gas explosion in San Bruno and several fatal Northern California wildfires, but a federal judge will allow PG&E to primarily focus on tree-trimming rather than be forced to launch a complete inspection of its power grid.

"The judge's actions don't really ensure the safety of the system," said Mike Danko, a Redwood City-based attorney who represents some Northern California wildfire victims. "I guess this is a first step towards safety."

Nevertheless, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup, who is supervising PG&E's probation in the wake of its criminal conviction for felonies it committed before and after a deadly gas explosion in San Bruno, blamed PG&E's deficient safety efforts for causing both the San Bruno disasters and a string of lethal wildfires in Northern California in 2017 and 2018.

Commentary: With Climate Change, Who Should Prevent California Wildfires?

(TNS) — Intense mega-fires have become the “new abnormal” in California. The wildfires are out, for now. Thank you, firefighters! But the fight over who should bear the costs of future damage compensation and risk mitigation is heating up.

Citing wildfire liabilities upwards of $30 billion, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the state’s largest electric utility, recently filed for bankruptcy. Headlines hail this the first of many “climate change bankruptcies.” But climate change is only one factor. These fires would not be so big if we did not send power through thousands of miles of tinderbox forest at high-risk times. Liabilities would not be so large if fewer people lived in high fire-risk areas.

Should California Insure Against Spending too Much on Fighting Wildfires?

(TNS) - This would be a first for California: state government buying insurance to protect itself against overspending its budget.

But before you start pelting the politicians and screaming fiscal irresponsibility, know that the budget-busting would be for fighting wildfires.

That puts it in an entirely different category from, say, controversial spending to help immigrants who are here illegally, or trying to register voters at the notoriously jammed DMV.

Heaviest Storm of the Season to Hit Fire-Scarred Southern California

(TNS) — The strongest and potentially wettest storm of the winter season is bearing down on Southern California this week, threatening to unleash debris flows in burn areas in Orange and Riverside counties as the region’s wild winter continues.

The atmospheric river-fueled storm, packed with subtropical moisture, will take aim at large swaths of the already-soaked state beginning early Wednesday and lasting through Thursday.

Firefighters Endangered During California Blaze, New Report Shows

Poor communication, short staffing and infighting among agencies may have endangered firefighters who nearly died during the massive Mendocino Complex of wildfires in Northern California, according to a new report released.

The Los Angeles Times reported that staff from three fire agencies examined an Aug. 19 incident where Los Angeles and state firefighters were trying to keep the three-week-old blaze from charging through wilderness and reaching homes.

Boeing Sued for Negligence in Southern California Wildfire

Boeing Co. was accused of negligence tied to a wildfire that tore through Malibu, California, in November and that purportedly started on the grounds of the nearby, disused Rocketdyne testing site.

A group of homeowners sued Boeing along with Edison International, the parent of the utility they say was at fault in igniting the fire, on Tuesday in Los Angeles. They claim Boeing failed to properly manage the vegetation on the Santa Susana Field Laboratory and allowed the fire to spread to surrounding neighborhoods.

PG&E Could Kill Lights to Customers When California Wildfires Occur

Anyone who gets power from PG&E Corp. could see their lights go out this fire season.

Even the millions of Californians who live outside risky areas could be left in the dark under a sweeping proposal the utility filed Wednesday. That’s because it wants regulators to approve the inclusion of more high-voltage lines in its power-shutoff plan for periods of elevated fire risk. PG&E filed for bankruptcy last week in the face of fire-damage claims that could exceed $30 billion.

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