California Fire Officials Request $100 Million to Fix Mutual-Aid System

(TNS) - California fire officials asked lawmakers Tuesday for $100 million to improve the state’s strained mutual-aid system, which is designed to quickly rally first responders in an emergency, such as the deadly fires that ravaged the North Bay last year.

At a legislative hearing in Sacramento, fire chiefs and emergency officials said wildfires across the state last year exposed shortcomings in the 60-year-old system.

Californians can go home but told to keep watch on wildfire

BISHOP, Calif. (AP) —
A wind-driven wildfire in rural central California threatened hundreds of buildings Monday, including a historic railroad station, but officials said they made some gains after the flames exploded in size.

The blaze scorched 3½ square miles of chaparral bush and shrub oak in the small town of Bishop on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada that is popular for hiking, fishing, climbing and hunting.

Officials ended most evacuations that were ordered near the town but warned that strong winds were expected in the area and urged residents to remain vigilant.

California Insurance Department reveals loss estimate on 2017 wildfires

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones revealed that insurers have received nearly 45,000 insurance claims totaling more than $11.79 billion in losses after a spell of wildfires affected California in the last three months of 2017.

Thirty-two thousand (32,000) homes, 4,300 businesses, and 8,200 vehicles, watercraft, farm vehicles and other equipment have been destroyed.

Sonoma County to Sue PG&E Over October Fires, Seeking up to $25 Million in Damages

(TNS) - Sonoma County officials said Tuesday that they will sue PG&E over the October wildfires, becoming the first government entity to take on the utility giant over its alleged role in the historic infernos.

The county is seeking in its planned lawsuit tens of millions of dollars in damages to clear debris, rebuild infrastructure and develop safety measures to prevent future disasters.

The move came about a month after the Board of Supervisors hired a group of private attorneys to represent them at a hearing to consolidate more than 100 similar suits from burned-out residents under a single San Francisco judge.

More Cameras on California Mountain Peaks to Boost Fire Protection

San Diego County, Calif. authorities say new high-definition cameras will be installed on mountain peaks to bolster fire protection, and an existing computer network that links fire stations throughout the region will be upgraded.

The Union-Tribune reports officials want to boost by five the number of cameras that use an established network that allows firefighting agencies to closely monitor remote areas.

California proposes stronger laws to help wildfire survivors with insurance claims

California’s Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and legislators from wildfire-damaged communities across the Golden State unveiled a series of new laws designed to strengthen consumer protections for wildfire survivors making insurance claims who struggle to recover, rebuild, and move forward.

Rains Finally Arrive, Bringing New Danger in California's Vast Fire Zones

REPORTING FROM MONTECITO, Calif. — In the mountains above coastal Santa Barbara County, the vegetation is typically so deep and lush that it can soak up a half-inch of rainwater before it flows downhill.

But that was before the Thomas fire swept through in December, burning those trees and brush to the ground. Now, the rain has no buffer, and that is cause for alarm.

"It hits the dirt directly and it is instant runoff and carries that sediment," Thomas D. Fayram, the deputy public works director for the county, told concerned residents at a community meeting several weeks ago.

Southern California is about to get its first significant rainstorm in nearly a year this week, with more than 4 inches of rain expected in burn areas.

Wine Country Fires Prompt New Alert Legislation

(TNS) — North Bay lawmakers have introduced a bill to bolster the ability of emergency officials to contact residents who may be in harm’s way — a topic that has been scrutinized since last year’s devastating wildfires.

The legislation, introduced by multiple lawmakers, including state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, would create uniform statewide emergency notification protocols. It also would require all counties to develop and adopt guidelines for using Wireless Emergency Alerts, a federally administered system that can send Amber Alert-style messages to cell phones in a disaster area.

As The Chronicle and others have reported, many North Bay residents said they received no official warning and were blindsided by the rapidly spreading flames that sparked in multiple counties in October.

Mapping the Post-Wildfire Landslide Risk in California’s Burn Zones

California’s rainy season last year may have replenished reservoirs in most parts of the state after a long, crippling drought, but the precipitation largely bypassed an area northwest of Los Angeles, in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Santa Barbara is now in its seventh year of drought and there are worries that similar conditions will return elsewhere in the Golden State.

Under these difficult circumstances, incoming rain—like the heavy precipitation that’s expected this week in parts of Southern California—would be welcomed as good news. But that’s not necessarily the case in the areas impacted by recent wildfires, including Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, where upwards of 4 inches of rains is predicted through Tuesday evening in some spots.

Trump's Homeland Security Chief Pledges Help With North Bay Fire Recovery

(TNS) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen became the first Cabinet-level official in the Trump administration to tour Northern California’s wildfire devastation, saying Wednesday that the White House would fully back recovery efforts.

Nielsen’s visit to Santa Rosa didn’t come with any new financial commitments, but it marked a show of support for California as the state muscles for a share of billions of dollars in federal aid being earmarked for states and U.S. territories devastated by hurricanes and other disasters in 2017.

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