Newly released footage shows ‘fire tornado’ that killed California firefighter
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1
The Legislature voted Friday to allow power companies to raise electric bills to cover the cost of lawsuits from last year’s deadly wildfires amid fears that Pacific Gas & Electric Co., would otherwise face financial ruin. The measure is part of a wide-ranging plan to reduce the threat of wildfires, which have killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes in recent years.
Consumer advocates and large energy users blasted legislation they say is a bailout for PG&E, which expects to pay billions of dollars due to fires started by the company’s equipment in Northern California last year. The company would be allowed to charge their customers even if the fires are linked to mismanagement by the company.
Fire investigators have blamed PG&E equipment for 12 of last year’s wildfires in Northern California’s wine country, including two that killed 15 people combined. In eight, investigators said they found evidence of violations of state law and forwarded the findings to county prosecutors. Authorities have not determined fault for the Tubbs Fire, the most destructive in state history, which destroyed thousands of homes in Santa Rosa.
PG&E is facing dozens of lawsuits from insurers, which have spent billions settling insurance claims from homeowners.
Meanwhile, firefighters are making progress on wildfires that continue to suffocate California.
A full month after the Mendocino Complex fires began, Cal Fire said late Monday that they are nearing full containment.
The Holy Fire, which has damaged or destroyed two dozen structures, reached full containment Sunday morning, but a flare-up Monday morning escaped containment lines, setting containment back to 93 percent.
The Carr Fire, the massive blaze that destroyed more than 1,000 homes in and around Redding and claimed eight lives, has been fully contained, Cal Fire officials announced Thursday night.
Here is the latest information on the fires burning across the Golden State. According to Cal Fire, more than 13,800 firefighters are on the front lines of 12 large wildfires in the state. These fires have burned more than 688,000 acres (1,075 square miles) and damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 structures. Six firefighters have died this year fighting the blazes.
The Carr Fire in Shasta County remained at 229,651 acres and 100 percent containment as of Thursday night, according to Cal Fire. The blaze began at about 1:15 p.m. on July 23. The wildfire has contributed to the deaths of eight people and has destroyed 1,604 structures and damaged 277 more.
State fire officials said that the fire is surrounded. However, firefighters will continue to patrol the area for several days and crews are still working on repairing broken fences and other damage caused by firefighters.
The blaze charred nearly 360 square miles, making it the seventh largest in California history. It was also the sixth most-destructive fire on record. The fire killed four civilians, including a woman and her two great-grandchildren, along with a Redding fire inspector and a bulldozer operator. A Pacific Gas & Electric apprentice lineman and a state fire heavy equipment mechanic assigned to the blaze died in vehicle-related accidents.
The National Park Service said the fire was started by sparks from a flat tire in the Whiskeytown area.
The Mendocino Complex Fire, currently contained at 96 percent, consists of the Ranch and River fires in Lake County. The Ranch Fire began about 12:03 p.m. July 27 and is now the largest in California history, according to Cal Fire.
As of Saturday morning, the Ranch Fire has burned 410,203 acres and is 96 percent contained; the River Fire has burned 48,920 acres and is fully contained, according to the Mendocino National Forest service, which has taken over full command of the Ranch Fire.
Together, the fires have burned 459,123 acres (717 square miles), and have destroyed 157 residences and 123 other buildings.
On Aug. 13, Cal Fire confirmed that a Utah firefighter was killed battling the blaze, marking the fire’s first fatality. Three other firefighters have been injured, Cal Fire said.
On Monday, mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for all areas of Glenn County east of the Mendocino National Forest boundary. Officials said Tuesday that all Colusa County evacuation advisories and road closures had been lifted. The Mendocino National Forest remains closed.
The Natchez Fire near the Oregon border has burned 27,303 acres and is 70 percent contained as of Thursday morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It was started by lightning on July 15.
Crews are making progress on the Donnell Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest by lighting backfires and improving containment lines. In all, the fire has burned 36,335 acres and is 84 percent contained as of Saturday morning. The fire began Aug. 2 near the Donnell Reservoir in Tuolumne County.
At least 53 cabins, as well as the historic Dardanelle Resort, have been destroyed, and evacuations remain in effect for residences and campgrounds along along Eagle Meadow Road, the Highway 108 corridor, and the Clark Fork Road area. Highland Lakes Road is open to Tryon Meadow only, although the Highland Lakes Campground and Trailhead are closed. Spicer Reservoir is closed, but the campgrounds remain open.
The Pacific Crest Trail between highways 108 and 4 is closed, along with the trails at the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness boundary.
For the most up to date evacuations and closures, go here.
In northern Shasta County, above Shasta Lake, the Hirz Fire has burned through 38,130 acres and reached 42 percent containment as of Saturday morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Lions Fire south of Yosemite has burned 12,990 acres and is 80 percent contained as of Friday morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The fire started about noon on June 11 and was caused by lightning. It crossed onto the Inyo National Forest on June 22.
The Holy Fire — named for Holy Jim Canyon where it began Aug. 6 — reached full containment Sunday morning, but a flare-up Monday morning escaped containment, setting containment back to 93 percent. The blaze chewed through 23,136 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
At one point, the fire straddling the Orange-Riverside county line prompted the evacuation of more than 20,000 people.