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Westlake Legal Group > California

PG&E Reaches $13.5 Billion Deal With Wildfire Victims

Westlake Legal Group merlin_149171412_7c5b12fb-0581-4f6f-9073-5c4afe926a1b-facebookJumbo PG&E Reaches $13.5 Billion Deal With Wildfire Victims Wildfires Suits and Litigation (Civil) Pacific Gas and Electric Co Electric Light and Power California Bankruptcies

After months of tense negotiations, Pacific Gas & Electric and lawyers for victims of wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes and businesses agreed on Friday to a multibillion-dollar legal settlement.

The victims wouldn’t receive all of the $13.5 billion that is being made available under the agreement. Some of it would go toward paying the claims of federal and state agencies, and the victims’ lawyers would receive a portion.

The accord is a big step forward for PG&E, whose response to wildfires has often faltered. For victims, the money would help them rebuild homes and lives after months of uncertainty, though many would most likely get a lot less than they had hoped for or need. And a settlement would significantly increase the likelihood that PG&E will emerge from bankruptcy before a crucial deadline in June. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in January, saying it faced an estimated $30 billion in wildfire claims.

The settlement, which requires approval by the United States Bankruptcy Court, follows accords that PG&E announced with insurance companies and some government agencies. A court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20.

To receive payments, wildfire victims must file claims by Dec. 31, a deadline that was extended after tens of thousands of victims failed to submit claims and some said they were not even aware of the process.

Even with the settlement, the future of the utility’s operations remains uncertain. The devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018, including the Camp Fire, which destroyed the Northern California town of Paradise, enraged many residents and elected officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose. Those leaders have proposed turning PG&E into a public utility or selling it to someone like the billionaire Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which owns several large energy companies.

“There have been many calls for PG&E to change in recent years,” the company’s chief executive, Bill Johnson, said in a statement. “PG&E’s leadership team has heard those calls for change, and we realize we need to do even more to be a different company now and in the future.”

Along with the destruction from wildfires caused by PG&E’s equipment, the utility has faced growing criticism over its failure to inspect and maintain its transmission network. Many Californians have also expressed anger at how the company shut off power to millions of people during periods of high winds and dry conditions to prevent fires.

A report released last week by the California Public Utilities Commission identified a 100-year-old transmission tower as the cause of the Camp Fire. It also revealed significant shortcomings in PG&E’s inspections of its power lines, a major cause of wildfires in the state.

In recent bankruptcy negotiations, representatives of Mr. Newsom have pressed PG&E to compensate wildfire victims sufficiently, treat workers fairly and maintain its commitment to clean energy. He has said the utility that emerges from bankruptcy must make safety a priority.

PG&E’s stock surged this week as investors became more upbeat about the prospects of a deal with the wildfire victims, but closed down 1.3 percent on Friday.

The company had originally offered to pay individual victims up to $8.4 billion, but increased its offer last month to try to win over the victims. Lawyers for the victims estimated in July that claims against PG&E totaled $54 billion for the fires of 2017 and 2018.

PG&E must emerge from bankruptcy by June in order to draw from a wildfire fund that California set up this year. The fund will help the state’s three large investor-owned utilities pay future wildfire claims if they meet certain conditions like improving safety practices.

On Thursday, the federal judge overseeing PG&E’s probation asked the utility to provide more information about equipment and inspection failures before the Camp Fire. Depending on the company’s answers, the judge, William H. Alsup, could initiate new disciplinary hearings or impose additional penalties against the company.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

PG&E Struggles to Find a Way Out of Bankruptcy

Westlake Legal Group 19utility2-facebookJumbo PG&E Struggles to Find a Way Out of Bankruptcy Wildfires Suits and Litigation (Civil) State Legislatures Pacific Gas and Electric Co Newsom, Gavin Electric Light and Power California Bankruptcies Accidents and Safety

After an autumn marked by mass blackouts and wildfires, Pacific Gas & Electric is racing to craft a plan to escape bankruptcy. That plan needs to satisfy fire victims and state officials who are threatening to take over California’s largest utility unless executives improve its safety record.

If PG&E doesn’t reach an agreement with victims and other creditors by early next year, the utility might not be able to participate in a new state wildfire fund. A federal bankruptcy judge could also strip control from its management and board, or allow it to be broken up with the pieces sold to the highest bidder.

These tensions surfaced in a court hearing on Tuesday in which PG&E asked a bankruptcy judge to limit its liability for wildfires, and at a legislative hearing that featured the company’s chief executive on Monday in Sacramento.

Another big problem for PG&E: California’s fire season isn’t over yet. A dangerous combination of high winds and dry conditions is expected as early as Wednesday morning, and PG&E has said that it could cut power to up to 303,000 customers. That works out to more than 800,000 people — when accounting for shared addresses — in 25 counties across the Bay Area, wine country and the Sierra foothills.

So far this fire season, the utility has pre-emptively shut off power to nearly three million people in northern and central California, some for as many as five days. PG&E has said that the blackouts help guard against fires ignited by the sparks created when windblown tree branches collide with live power lines. But critics, including state and local government officials, have said that PG&E has done a poor job of warning residents about the shut-offs, which have had a disproportionate impact on low-income families who cannot afford generators or batteries, and on older and sick residents who rely on electric medical devices.

For some, the blackouts have amounted to “a big screw-you,” said State Senator Bill Dodd, a Democrat whose district includes Napa and Sonoma, during a hearing on Monday in Sacramento.

PG&E has warned that it might have to employ such blackouts for up to a decade while the utility makes up for deferred maintenance. On Monday, the company’s chief executive, Bill Johnson, told lawmakers that it aims to move faster and reduce the number of affected customers by one-third or more starting next year. To do so, it is installing backup energy systems like microgrids, underground power lines and weather cameras.

“It’s not acceptable to me to have another year like this,” Mr. Johnson said.

Not everyone is willing to wait. State Senator Mike McGuire, a Democrat who represents the area where the Kincade fire burned 174 homes recently, is one of many lawmakers who have said that the state should consider offering a “public option” for electricity. PG&E has already stumbled twice, he said on Monday, with a deadly 2010 gas explosion and several devastating fires in the last two years.

“I think we’re on our third strike,” Mr. McGuire said. “They’ve failed us too many times.”

That hostility serves as the backdrop for a fierce battle in bankruptcy court over how much money PG&E will pay wildfire victims, insurance companies, public agencies and other creditors. The company recently lost the exclusive right to propose a plan for resolving its bankruptcy. That opened the door for holders of PG&E’s bonds and the group representing wildfire victims to propose a competing plan. The bankruptcy judge overseeing the case, Dennis Montali, recently appointed a mediator to try to get PG&E and its bondholders and the victims to reach a settlement.

On Monday, in an effort to reach a deal, PG&E increased the amount it is willing to pay to settle fire claims to $25.5 billion, up from $18.9 billion.

But it’s not clear whether that will satisfy all parties. While the fire victims and the insurance-claim holders have the biggest claims against the company, others are also fighting to maximize their share of the $25.5 billion. Federal, state and local agencies say they are owed some $7.5 billion for fighting fires started by the utility’s equipment, taking care of victims and other costs.

Another big point of contention is how those claims will be paid. Under earlier proposals, holders of insurance claims, many of which were bought by hedge funds, would have gotten $11 billion in cash. But other claimants, including the wildfire victims, would have been paid almost entirely in stock of the new, reorganized PG&E. But since stock can lose value, many people and organizations would prefer cash.

Robert Julian, a lawyer representing the wildfire victims, said in bankruptcy court on Tuesday that PG&E’s settlement with the insurance-claims holders had become “the elephant in the room” in the bankruptcy. The claims holders have not attended recent mediation sessions.

“We can’t resolve this case because they’ve taken all the cash,” Mr. Julian said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has also come out against the deal with insurance-claim holders, calling it premature. If victims, PG&E and insurance-claim holders cannot come to mutual agreement, “the state of California will present its own plan for resolution of these cases,” lawyers for Mr. Newsom wrote in a recent legal filing.

Some California politicians are considering drastic measures. Sam Liccardo, the mayor of San Jose, has proposed turning PG&E into a customer-owned entity. All fire claims in bankruptcy would be paid in cash under that plan, according to Alan Gover, a lawyer who is working on it.

PG&E must emerge from bankruptcy by June 2020 in order to participate in a new wildfire fund that California set up this year to shield the state’s largest utilities from future wildfire claims. If there is no settlement between PG&E, fire victims and other creditors by early next year, however, two other potentially lengthy trials are set to begin. These would decide the utility’s liability to fire victims with the help of a jury and expert witnesses.

While PG&E has repeatedly promised to pay all fire victim claims in full, bankruptcy experts say that troubled companies often find it difficult to do so, and many victims are left with much less than they hoped for.

“You kind of have to put ‘in full’ in quotation marks,” said Ralph Brubaker, a professor who specializes in bankruptcy at the University of Illinois College of Law.

Judge Montali last week extended the deadline by which people who lost homes and property in a PG&E-linked fire had to file claims to Dec. 31, from Oct. 21. Some fire victims said just days prior that they had not yet filed claims because of confusion about the process or trouble getting back on their feet.

“I am sure we missed thousands of people,” said Helen Sedwick, a lawyer who lost her home to fire in 2017 and has dedicated time to registering the claims of fellow survivors.

“Many people were starting from scratch,” she said. “Once they learned about it, there was a frantic sense of, ‘I need to understand this and do something quickly.’”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Fresno Backyard Shooting Leaves 4 Dead and 6 Injured, Police Say

Westlake Legal Group 18xp-fresno2-facebookJumbo Fresno Backyard Shooting Leaves 4 Dead and 6 Injured, Police Say Fresno (Calif) Deaths (Fatalities) California

[Sign up for our daily newsletter about news from California here.]

Four people were fatally shot and six others wounded after at least one gunman opened fire on a backyard party in Fresno, Calif., on Sunday, then fled, the authorities said.

The motive and number of assailants was unknown, and no arrests had been made, the police said.

About 35 friends and family at the home were watching a football game in the backyard when an unknown number of gunmen opened fire into the crowd, said Michael Reed, a deputy chief of the Fresno Police Department. The authorities received reports of the shooting around 8 p.m. local time.

[Fearing a mass shooting, police officers in the Seattle area took a man’s guns. A judge gave them back.]

Mr. Reed said all 10 of the victims were Asian men between 25 and 30 years old, but several children were at the party.

“Thank God that no kids were hurt,” he said.

Mr. Reed said three of the men died in the yard, and one died after being taken to a nearby hospital. Six others were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, he said.

As of Monday morning, the police had not made any arrests in connection with the shooting. The police said they did not know what might have motivated the attack.

“This is senseless violence,” Mr. Reed said. “We’re going to do everything we can to find out who the perpetrators are and bring them to justice.”

Detectives were “canvassing the area searching for witnesses and anyone with surveillance cameras,” said Lt. Bill Dooley of the Fresno Police Department said.

The shooting occurred on the 5300 block of East Lamona Avenue, just south of the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

Videos posted on social media showed police cars and ambulances crowding a street lined with residential homes.

Fresno, a sprawling city of more than 500,000 people, is surrounded by vast expanses of almond and fruit trees. It is about 175 miles southeast of Sacramento.

California, which has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, has seen a rash of mass shootings in recent weeks.

On Thursday, a 16-year-old student killed two of his classmates and wounded three others in a shooting at a high school in Santa Clarita, Calif.

Two shootings at separate Halloween parties, one in a San Francisco suburb and another in Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, killed a total of eight people.

The shooting at an Airbnb rental in Orinda, the San Francisco suburb, appeared to involve rival gangs, David Livingston, the sheriff of Contra Costa County, said at a news briefing Friday. A total of 10 people were shot in what the sheriff called a “blood bath.”

Daniel Victor contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

California Fires Fanned by Strong Winds: Live Updates

Here’s what you need to know:

Video

Westlake Legal Group 29fires-01sub-videoSixteenByNine3000-v4 California Fires Fanned by Strong Winds: Live Updates Wind Wildfires Weather Protective Clothing and Gear National Weather Service Forests and Forestry Fires and Firefighters Environmental Protection Agency California Cal Fire

A forecast of powerful winds and low humidity was expected to worsen conditions for the fires that are burning in Northern and Southern California.CreditCredit…Eric Thayer for The New York Times

The worst kind of weather for wildfires — strong, gusty winds and very low humidity — is returning on Tuesday after a relative respite on Monday, the National Weather Service said, raising the prospect of more fire outbreaks and rapid growth of the blazes that are already burning.

The agency has posted “red flag” warnings for most of Northern California and much of Southern California, taking effect at various times on Tuesday.

Forecasters are predicting winds between 50 m.ph. and 70 m.p.h. in Los Angeles County and Ventura County starting late Tuesday and continuing on Wednesday and Thursday, with some gusts up to 80 m.p.h. in the mountainous areas of Los Angeles County, the National Weather Service said. The scale for Category 1 hurricanes begins at 74 m.p.h.

[Read more about how climate change could shift California’s winds.]

Winds gusts of up to 60 miles an hour could be expected beginning in the morning over a vast stretch of the state from the Sierras to the Pacific and from the southern fringes of the Bay Area north nearly to the Oregon border, except for coastal areas north of Sonoma County.

The winds, known as Santa Anas in the southern part of the state and Diablos in the north, arrive regularly in the fall. Recent research suggests that as the climate warms, Santa Ana winds may become less frequent. Coupled with precipitation changes, that could mean more intense fires later in the year.

Red-flag weather has played an important role in driving the growth of the Kincade, Getty and other fires, and has prompted pre-emptive blackouts by utility companies hoping to keep wind-damaged power lines and equipment from touching off more blazes.

[ The New York Times has photographers on the ground, documenting the California wildfires and the battle to contain them. Follow their work here. ]

Hundreds of firefighters mobilized to fight the Kincade fire gathered in the morning darkness on Tuesday for a briefing at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Crowded into an event hall in navy blue uniforms and yellow jackets, they listened as commanders took stock: Monday had been a good day.

The wind had died down, allowing for a real attack on the fire, which is now 15 percent contained. But today was going to be difficult, the crews were told.

“We’re going to be wind-tested again,” Ben Nichols, a representative from Cal Fire, told them. The breeze was supposed to get particularly powerful in the afternoon and evening, hurling hot embers toward dry areas and threatening the many houses tucked into the wooded areas of Sonoma County. Protecting those houses would be a major priority.

Many of the firefighters have been on the line for days, and some have worked as many as 36 hours at a stretch with no rest. Top officials warned them against fatigue.

Think things through, they were told. Have an escape plan. Throw out lunches that have gone bad after days in the truck. Don’t let sickness get in the way of work. And get ready for the wind.

Tuesday, said Mike Blankenheim of Cal Fire, was going to be a “max effort day.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163492827_9be556f9-629e-471b-a68e-4b1578143d7e-articleLarge California Fires Fanned by Strong Winds: Live Updates Wind Wildfires Weather Protective Clothing and Gear National Weather Service Forests and Forestry Fires and Firefighters Environmental Protection Agency California Cal Fire

A firefighter worked on a hot spot in Windsor, Calif., on Monday.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Kincade fire has grown to more than 74,000 acres but is now 15 percent contained, according to Cal Fire, the state firefighting and fire prevention agency. It has destroyed more than than 120 structures and damaged another 20.

As the Kincade and Getty fires raged through dry vegetation at opposite ends of California on Monday, they raised fears that the state’s vicious wildfire season was straining the resources of fire departments that are already spread out battling 16 fires across the state, pushing fire crews beyond the brink of exhaustion.

“It’s all starting to blend together,” said Joe Augino, a firefighter with the Arcadia Fire Department in Southern California who had just finished battling a wildfire in the canyons north of Los Angeles last week when his company was summoned to travel eight hours to the north to help fight the Kincade fire in Sonoma County.

On a winding road near the front lines of the Kincade fire, where about 156,000 people remained under mandatory evacuation orders, Mr. Augino and his fellow firefighters were extinguishing spot fires with water and hand tools.

We’re continuing to update our page of maps showing the extent of the fires, power outages and evacuation zones. Data from Cal Fire shows how the Kincade fire in Northern California has spread and where it is burning most intensely. Satellite images pinpoint the Getty and Tick fires and affected areas nearby.

Westlake Legal Group california-fire-map-promo-1572020277850-articleLarge-v8 California Fires Fanned by Strong Winds: Live Updates Wind Wildfires Weather Protective Clothing and Gear National Weather Service Forests and Forestry Fires and Firefighters Environmental Protection Agency California Cal Fire

Maps: Kincade and Getty Fires, Evacuation Zones and Power Outages

Detailed maps show the current fire extents, power outage zones and areas under evacuation orders.

Fernanda Santos, a former New York Times correspondent based in Phoenix, is the author of “The Fire Line,” the story of 19 firefighters killed in an Arizona wildfire in 2013.

It is an arresting scene, the dangers unimaginable: Firefighters clad in yellow and green flame-resistant uniforms, battling a wind-whipped and fast-moving blaze with what amount to farming and logging tools.

Fighting fires — including immense untamed wildfires — requires a combination of brutal force, endurance and skill. From the air, firefighters may release water and fire retardant, which can slow its spread but will not extinguish the raging flames. The most effective man-made way to contain a wildfire is to box it inside buffer zones that are absent of everything that burns — a laborious, intense pursuit that requires clearing the land.

Members of a 20-person crew work in a line, hacking at the hardened ground, chopping down trees, yanking out roots and sawing down undergrowth. It is a carefully choreographed ballet, where one person’s movements affect the next’s.

“Imagine, if you can, 16-hour days of manual labor where you’re hustling all the time, and you do it oftentimes for 14 days straight,” said Doug Harwood, a firefighter in the city of Prescott, Ariz., who spent years fighting wildfires in the Western United States.

The mechanics of the job have not changed considerably since 1910, when a monster wildfire known as the Big Burn devoured 3 million acres and killed 85 people across three Northwestern states, and a United States Forest Service ranger named Ed Pulaski returned from obscurity a handy tool that can both dig soil and chop wood.

The Pulaski, as it is known, combines an ax and an adz in one head, and is now arguably the most important piece of equipment in wildfire suppression.

Alan Sinclair, who commands one of 16 teams trained to manage the most challenging wildfires in the United States, said team leaders have to weigh the risks of clearing land when flames may be racing toward them. At some point, it may be too risky, he said.

Communities can help, he said, by working together to create buffer zones around them, what is known as “defensible space,” before a fire strikes.

“It’s really hard for firefighters to go into an area where no work has been done and be expected to save the neighborhood,” Mr. Sinclair said.

Power companies across the state warned that power could be cut pre-emptively because of worsening weather conditions.

Pacific Gas & Electric said it would shut off power to an additional 600,000 customers in 29 counties in Northern California on Tuesday and Wednesday because of the danger that wind-damaged lines or equipment could cause more fires. Some 500,000 PG&E customers were still blacked out from previous shut-offs, and the company said it could be several days before power is restored.

In and around Los Angeles, Southern California Edison said on Tuesday morning that as many as 205,000 customers could be affected by safety-related shutoffs, but that so far only a few hundred had been blacked out.

San Diego Gas & Electric warned that shutoffs may become necessary in some inland areas east and northeast of the city, but none had been imposed yet.

A new state web portal includes links to updated information on the power outages, as well as shelters and housing, road conditions and other information related to the fires, compiled by state agencies like Cal Fire and Caltrans.

As ashen skies, raging wildfires and blackouts blanket areas of Northern and Southern California, many residents and evacuees are relying on Twitter hashtags for up-to-date information about their homes, loved ones, road closures and further evacuations.

Over the past week, “Kincadefire,” “Gettyfire,” “Tickfire,” “Skyfire” and “Sawdayfire”— the names of the wildfires — have become popular search terms on social media. But often there is confusion as to where their names come from.

As opposed to the predetermined list of names provided for hurricanes, wildfires are named by officials according to the location or local landmark, including streets, lakes and mountains, where the fire broke out. Fires often go without names if they are too small.

“Quickly naming the fire provides responding fire resources with an additional locator, and allows fire officials to track and prioritize incidents by name,” the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

If there is a long human presence in the area, there’s no challenge in finding a name — officials just draw from geographically local, named landmarks, according to Susie Kocher, a Natural Resources Advisor at the University of California.

The 2003 San Diego Cedar fire, one of the state’s largest wildland fires in history, unsurprisingly spread across the Cedar Creek Falls area. It burned over 270,000 acres, destroyed more 2,200 homes and killed 14 civilians and one firefighter.

But when it comes to naming there are always weird exceptions. The 416 Fire, for example, burned more than 50,000 acres in Colorado in 2018. Why 416? According to the Durango Interagency Dispatch Center, it was after a “system-generated number” that represented the 416th “incident” in the San Juan National Forest that year.

Another curious choice was in 2015, when fire officials in southeast Idaho ran out of naming ideas following the outbreak of a swarm of fires; for a fire with few landmarks nearby, they went with “Not Creative.

The Kincade fire in Sonoma County, which had burned more than 66,000 acres and has displaced nearly 200,000 residents as of Monday night, has proved challenging to remember for journalists and people on social media alike.

Misspellings online include Kincaid, Kincaide, Kinkade and Kinkaid.


Reporting was contributed by Adeel Hassan, Liam Stack, Sarah Mervosh and Vanessa Swales.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

California Fires Live Updates: Getty Fire Fanned by Strong Winds

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163492827_9be556f9-629e-471b-a68e-4b1578143d7e-articleLarge California Fires Live Updates: Getty Fire Fanned by Strong Winds Wind Wildfires Weather Protective Clothing and Gear National Weather Service Forests and Forestry Fires and Firefighters Environmental Protection Agency California Cal Fire

A firefighter worked on a hot spot in Windsor, Calif., on Monday.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The worst kind of weather for wildfires — strong, gusty winds and very low humidity — is returning on Tuesday after a relative respite on Monday, the National Weather Service said, raising the prospect of more fire outbreaks and rapid growth of the blazes that are already burning.

The agency has posted “red flag” warnings for most of Northern California and much of Southern California, taking effect at various times on Tuesday.

Forecasters are predicting winds between 50 m.ph. and 70 m.p.h. in Los Angeles County and Ventura County on Wednesday and Thursday, with some gusts up to 80 m.p.h. in the mountainous areas of Los Angeles and Santa Monica counties, the National Weather Service said. The scale for Category 1 hurricanes begins at 74 m.p.h.

Winds gusts of up to 60 miles an hour could be expected beginning in the morning over a vast stretch of the state from the Sierras to the Pacific and from the southern fringes of the Bay Area north nearly to the Oregon border, except for coastal areas north of Sonoma County.

The winds, known as Santa Anas in the southern part of the state and Diablos in the north, arrive regularly in the fall. Recent research suggests that as the climate warms, Santa Ana winds may become less frequent. Coupled with precipitation changes, that could mean more intense fires later in the year.

[Read more about how climate change could shift California’s winds.]

Red-flag weather has played an important role in driving the growth of the Kincade, Getty and other fires, and has prompted pre-emptive blackouts by utility companies hoping to keep wind-damaged power lines and equipment from touching off more blazes.

[ The New York Times has photographers on the ground, documenting the California wildfires and the battle to contain them. Follow their work here. ]

The Kincade fire has grown to more than 74,000 acres but is now 15 percent contained, according to Cal Fire, the state firefighting and fire prevention agency. It has destroyed more than than 120 structures and damaged another 20.

As the Kincade and Getty fires raged through dry vegetation at opposite ends of California on Monday, they raised fears that the state’s vicious wildfire season was straining the resources of fire departments that are already spread out battling 16 fires across the state, pushing fire crews beyond the brink of exhaustion.

“It’s all starting to blend together,” said Joe Augino, a firefighter with the Arcadia Fire Department in Southern California who had just finished battling a wildfire in the canyons north of Los Angeles last week when his company was summoned to travel eight hours to the north to help fight the Kincade fire in Sonoma County.

With no rain in the forecast, a brief break in the ferocious winds on Monday offered Mr. Augino’s crew and other firefighters a tiny but crucial window to try to gain control over the fast-spreading fires. But forecasters warned that the respite would not last and that wind gusts would grow to 50 or 60 miles per hour by Tuesday.

On a winding road near the front lines of the Kincade fire, where about 156,000 people remained under mandatory evacuation orders, Mr. Augino and his fellow firefighters were extinguishing spot fires with water and hand tools.

We’re continuing to update our page of maps showing the extent of the fires, power outages and evacuation zones. Data from Cal Fire shows how the Kincade fire in Northern California has spread and where it is burning most intensely. Satellite images pinpoint the Getty and Tick fires and affected areas nearby.

Westlake Legal Group california-fire-map-promo-1572020277850-articleLarge-v8 California Fires Live Updates: Getty Fire Fanned by Strong Winds Wind Wildfires Weather Protective Clothing and Gear National Weather Service Forests and Forestry Fires and Firefighters Environmental Protection Agency California Cal Fire

Maps: Kincade and Getty Fires, Evacuation Zones and Power Outages

Detailed maps show the current fire extents, power outage zones and areas under evacuation orders.

Fernanda Santos, a former New York Times correspondent based in Phoenix, is the author of “The Fire Line,” the story of 19 firefighters killed in an Arizona wildfire in 2013.

It is an arresting scene, the dangers unimaginable: Firefighters clad in yellow and green flame-resistant uniforms, battling a wind-whipped and fast-moving blaze with what amount to farming and logging tools.

Fighting fires — including immense untamed wildfires — requires a combination of brutal force, endurance and skill. From the air, firefighters may release water and fire retardant, which can slow its spread but will not extinguish the raging flames. The most effective man-made way to contain a wildfire is to box it inside buffer zones that are absent of everything that burns — a laborious, intense pursuit that requires clearing the land.

Members of a 20-person crew work in a line, hacking at the hardened ground, chopping down trees, yanking out roots and sawing down undergrowth. It is a carefully choreographed ballet, where one person’s movements affect the next’s.

“Imagine, if you can, 16-hour days of manual labor where you’re hustling all the time, and you do it oftentimes for 14 days straight,” said Doug Harwood, a firefighter in the city of Prescott, Ariz., who spent years fighting wildfires in the Western United States.

The mechanics of the job have not changed considerably since 1910, when a monster wildfire known as the Big Burn devoured 3 million acres and killed 85 people across three Northwestern states, and a United States Forest Service ranger named Ed Pulaski returned from obscurity a handy tool that can both dig soil and chop wood.

The Pulaski, as it is known, combines an ax and an adz in one head, and is now arguably the most important piece of equipment in wildfire suppression.

Alan Sinclair, who commands one of 16 teams trained to manage the most challenging wildfires in the United States, said team leaders have to weigh the risks of clearing land when flames may be racing toward them. At some point, it may be too risky, he said.

Communities can help, he said, by working together to create buffer zones around them, what is known as “defensible space,” before a fire strikes.

“It’s really hard for firefighters to go into an area where no work has been done and be expected to save the neighborhood,” Mr. Sinclair said.

With wildfires raging up and down California, smoke filled the air in many places, ash fell from the sky, and residents were once again left to wonder whether the very air they were breathing was safe. Here is what you need to know about the air quality in the state.

Air quality is graded on a color-coded scale, with green for good quality, and yellow, orange, red, and purple representing increasingly significant risks.

After the Getty fire broke out on Monday, the Los Angeles area was experiencing moderately hazardous conditions — in the yellow category — with some locations recording air that was unhealthy for sensitive groups, coded orange. The Bay Area was also experiencing conditions in the orange range.

In general, wildfires come with a risk of breathing particulate matter, tiny pollutants too small to see individually that can cause a range of harmful effects when inhaled into the lungs.

Young children, older adults, people with asthma and people with pre-existing conditions are most at risk, but pollution from smoky air can affect even healthy adults.

When the air quality is poor, health experts recommend staying inside, closing windows to keep out smoky air, and using an air-conditioner with a recirculation option, if possible. If you must go outside, experts recommend using a mask designed to keep out particulate matter.

A surgical mask, scarf or bandanna will not do much to filter out many pollutants. Instead, experts recommend a respirator mask, such as a N95 face mask, which is designed to filter out 95 percent of airborne particles.

The current and forecast air quality conditions anywhere in the United States can be checked on AirNow.gov, a website set up by the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies.

While dry eyes and a scratchy throat may simply be a reaction to low humidity in fire-prone areas, a cough, shortness of breath or lightheadedness could also be a symptom of something more serious, said Dr. Kathryn Melamed, a pulmonologist at U.C.L.A.

As ashen skies, raging wildfires and blackouts blanket areas of Northern and Southern California, many residents and evacuees are relying on Twitter hashtags for up-to-date information about their homes, loved ones, road closures and further evacuations.

Over the past week, “Kincadefire,” “Gettyfire,” “Tickfire,” “Skyfire” and “Sawdayfire”— the names of the wildfires — have become popular search terms on social media. But often there is confusion as to where their names come from.

As opposed to the predetermined list of names provided for hurricanes, wildfires are named by officials according to the location or local landmark, including streets, lakes and mountains, where the fire broke out. Fires often go without names if they are too small.

“Quickly naming the fire provides responding fire resources with an additional locator, and allows fire officials to track and prioritize incidents by name,” the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

If there is a long human presence in the area, there’s no challenge in finding a name — officials just draw from geographically local, named landmarks, according to Susie Kocher, a Natural Resources Advisor at the University of California.

The 2003 San Diego Cedar fire, one of the state’s largest wildland fires in history, unsurprisingly spread across the Cedar Creek Falls area. It burned over 270,000 acres, destroyed more 2,200 homes and killed 14 civilians and one firefighter.

But when it comes to naming there are always weird exceptions. The 416 Fire, for example, burned more than 50,000 acres in Colorado in 2018. Why 416? According to the Durango Interagency Dispatch Center, it was after a “system-generated number” that represented the 416th “incident” in the San Juan National Forest that year.

Another curious choice was in 2015, when fire officials in southeast Idaho ran out of naming ideas following the outbreak of a swarm of fires; for a fire with few landmarks nearby, they went with “Not Creative.

The Kincade fire in Sonoma County, which had burned more than 66,000 acres and has displaced nearly 200,000 residents as of Monday night, has proved challenging to remember for journalists and people on social media alike.

Misspellings online include Kincaid, Kincaide, Kinkade and Kinkaid.


Reporting was contributed by Adeel Hassan, Liam Stack, Sarah Mervosh and Vanessa Swales.

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California Blackouts Hit Cellphone Service, Fraying a Lifeline

Westlake Legal Group 28cellular1-facebookJumbo California Blackouts Hit Cellphone Service, Fraying a Lifeline Wireless Communications Wildfires Power Failures and Blackouts Pacific Gas and Electric Co Federal Communications Commission Disasters and Emergencies California

California’s recent power shut-offs, meant to reduce the risk of potentially catastrophic fires, have had an unwelcome side effect. The blackouts have also cut power to many cellphone towers, blocking the main communications source for many in harm’s way.

“You don’t appreciate how essential cellphone service is until you lose it,” said Chris Ungson, deputy director for communications and water policy for the California Public Advocates Office, an independent agency within the state’s Public Utilities Commission. “It’s not just a matter of inconvenience; it’s a matter of public health and safety. It’s a lifeline to many, many people.”

Emergency calls to 911 are one indicator: The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said more than 80 percent of such calls in California last year were made by cellphone.

For years, state and federal regulators have pressed the cellular companies to better reinforce their networks for emergencies. The Federal Communications Commission said Monday that it was conducting “a comprehensive review of the wireless industry’s voluntary commitment to promote resilient wireless communications during disasters.”

The F.C.C. wrote to cellular carriers last month to express concern about service reliability as California’s wildfire season neared, asking for an account of steps being taken “to promote the continuity of communications for public safety officials and residents.”

Verizon, AT&T and other carriers said Monday that they were working to minimize disruption, but could offer no specific guarantees.

In Paradise, a Sierra foothill town rebuilding after it was devastated by fire last year, the combination of the power shut-off and uncertain communications was causing renewed anxiety on Monday.

Jess Mercer, who conducted her elementary-school drawing class by lantern light, said cellular service was spotty and wireless internet connections were out in many areas, leaving many parents and teachers uncertain about whether school was open.

Some parents, she said, were resorting to a 20th-century information source to stay updated. “A lot of people are telling me they’re getting into their cars and trying to get warm with their heaters, and they’re listening to the radio,” Ms. Mercer said. “People are trying any way they can to get information.”

In Sonoma County, where a major fire led to the evacuation of 180,000 residents over the weekend, one-quarter of the 436 cellphone towers were not functioning, the F.C.C. said Monday.

In nearby Marin County, more than half of the 280 towers were out of service. Most of the outages were related to the pre-emptive power cuts imposed by Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility.

The increasing connection between power failures and communications outages arises from the transformative effect of wireless devices, which many people have made their sole source of telephone service.

Most cell towers have some form of backup power. When they lose power, they resort to batteries. If the batteries run out, the towers draw power from generators, which rely on fuel. These methods can provide power for days or longer, depending on whether the generators can be refueled.

AT&T said all of its cell sites in California had some form of backup power. Verizon said most of its towers were equipped with batteries and generators. T-Mobile said it had built-in generators in its most critical sites, while others had batteries. Sprint said that some of its cell sites had built-in generators, and that it was deploying portable generators for others as quickly as possible.

“Providers invest significant resources to strengthen and harden networks so that they are able to maintain service during emergencies,” said a statement from CTIA, the wireless industry trade group.

There are limits to what carriers can do when the blackout is accompanied by wildfire. Some generators are inaccessible because of the fires and can’t be refueled. In other cases, sites lack generators because of zoning restrictions.

In 2007, after Hurricane Katrina, the F.C.C. ordered cellular companies to provide at least eight hours of backup support for their towers. But the Office of Management and Budget rejected the move on procedural grounds, and the commission dropped the plan.

In May, the California Public Advocates Office called on the Public Utilities Commission to exercise emergency powers to ensure that communications systems continue to operate in emergencies. It asked the commission to immediately order cellular companies provide backup generators and alternate routes in high-fire areas and flood plains.

“The failure of our communications systems in emergencies is a life-or-death matter, and one that must be addressed immediately,” the office wrote.

The commission directed the wireless providers to report how they were hardening their systems, but the Public Advocates Office said the responses were vague and ambiguous.

“There is a constant pushback from the utilities,” said Ana Maria Johnson, program manager at the Public Advocates Office. “They want to voluntarily do things. It has to be requirement that they do this. It is critical that wireless facilities have on-site backup power.”

To some extent, the Public Utilities Commission has put the responsibility on the public. In a recent report, it noted that wireless customers “may or may not have voice service in a power outage, depending on the backup power installed at cell sites,” and said the commission “does not have rules mandating backup power for this type of service.”

It added that it was “the responsibility of the customer to obtain the required backup power in the residence to have working telephone service during an outage event.”

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AOC Blames the California Wildfires on “Climate Change,” but the Internet Isn’t Having It

Westlake Legal Group AlexandriaOcasioCortez-June2019-620x317 AOC Blames the California Wildfires on “Climate Change,” but the Internet Isn’t Having It Wildfires Politics Green New Deal Front Page Stories environment democrats Climate Change Climate California AOC Allow Media Exception Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., listens during questioning at a House Oversight and Reform committee hearing on facial recognition technology in government, Tuesday, June 4, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

There’s a pattern with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A natural event happens — it doesn’t matter much what kind of event it is — and her immediate reaction is to blame it on “climate change.” It’s a knee-jerk reaction that was, frankly, worn to death by climate alarmists before her like Al Gore and Bill Nye.

On Monday, AOC sent out a tweet blaming the wildfires ravaging parts of California right now on “climate change,” stating that this is what “climate change” looks like and even throwing in a hit on the un-scientific nature of the Republicans for good measure.

Naturally, it ended with a time frame for us to fix it and a promotion of the Green New Deal.

“This is what climate change looks like,” tweeted AOC. “The GOP like to mock scientific warnings about climate change as exaggeration. But just look around: it’s already starting. We have 10 years to cut carbon emissions in half. If we don’t, scenes like this can get much worse.”

The problem with this statement is that California wildfires aren’t anything new. In fact, Capital Public Radio has a visual timeline that shows just how wildfires have hit California dating back well before the 1950s. Like any natural disaster, wildfires are worse in some years than they are others.

This picture below shows an accumulated map of wildfires that date back to 1878 all the way up to 1950.

Westlake Legal Group Capture-3 AOC Blames the California Wildfires on “Climate Change,” but the Internet Isn’t Having It Wildfires Politics Green New Deal Front Page Stories environment democrats Climate Change Climate California AOC Allow Media Exception Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The idea that humans are causing wildfires due to their effect on the planet is incredibly shaky.

While many of AOC’s online group of trained seals applauded and cheered her blatant attempt at agenda promotion, much of the internet wasn’t having her scaremongering.

The point made here is pretty clear. Wildfires and California go hand in hand. They have them so frequently that it’s a wonder they don’t name their sports teams after it.

Regardless, AOC’s tweet has shown us that she’s willing to stand on the ashes of people’s homes and lives in order to paint the GOP with the blame as well as pushing her pet project, which is pretty disgusting in and of itself. Your life burning down in front of you matters little. It’s all a political prop to her.

Disgusting.

 

The post AOC Blames the California Wildfires on “Climate Change,” but the Internet Isn’t Having It appeared first on RedState.

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BREAKING: Katie Hill to Resign by Week’s End

Following RedState’s series of articles on Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA), Politico is reporting that the freshman from Agua Dulce, CA is resigning.

As RedState reported earlier today, DCCC sources commented off the record early Sunday that the DCCC was looking for a replacement for Hill, and once one was found that Hill would resign. Within the district, the consensus is that the replacement candidate will be Asm. Christy Smith, who just completed her first term representing the area and campaigned with Hill.

In addition, a planned fundraiser featuring Hill scheduled for Nov. 8 was canceled over the weekend.

According to Politico, Hill will resign by the end of the week.

Jennifer Van Laar is Deputy Managing Editor of RedState. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

The post BREAKING: Katie Hill to Resign by Week’s End appeared first on RedState.

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BREAKING: Major PAC, Silicon Valley Donor Cancel Fundraiser Featuring Katie Hill

A major progressive PAC, Hold the House, has canceled a fundraiser in Silicon Valley scheduled for November 8 at which Rep. Katie Hill was scheduled as the featured speaker, according to an email provided to RedState.

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No reason was given for the cancellation, which was to be hosted by Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg and her husband.

The cancellation comes after DCCC insiders told RedState Sunday that the group is quietly seeking a replacement for Hill. Hill is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a congressional staffer.

Jennifer Van Laar is Deputy Managing Editor of RedState. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

The post BREAKING: Major PAC, Silicon Valley Donor Cancel Fundraiser Featuring Katie Hill appeared first on RedState.

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Katie Hill Paid Alleged (Male) Lover a Campaign Win Bonus; Stiffed Throuple Partner

As a millennial female candidate, Katie Hill made women’s issues and ending the patriarchy a big focus of her campaign.

Her throuple partner, who also served as the Hill campaign’s Operations Director, wrote an essay on Medium addressing the wage gap issue and other issues women face in the workforce (emphasis added):

As a young woman in the workforce, I have faced many challenges. Being taken as seriously as my male counterparts, not being heard in meetings, harassment.

One of the reasons I work with Katie Hill, and why as a resident of the 25th District, I am so excited to vote for her in June, is because I know Katie will make tackling these issues a top priority. Katie cares about women and families, has experience working with people in poverty to provide them with the tools they need to succeed, and perhaps most importantly, has the will and the courage to fight for people who for far too long have had their needs go unnoticed. Katie has what it takes to take on the big issues like pay equity, solve the problem at its core, and change lives.

Does she really have “what it takes to take on the big issues like pay equity”? A look at her own pay practices is instructive.

FEC reports reveal that Graham Kelly was paid $5,100 by the campaign in April 2019 as a “2018 election bonus for his services as Finance Director.” Hill paid five staffers bonuses, but Kelly and his then-roommate/campaign manager, Zack Czajkowski, were given the highest bonuses. Deputy campaign manager Benjamin Steinberger was given a $3,600 bonus.

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Female staffers Kassandra King (Deputy Communications Director)and Hannah Nayowith (Deputy Finance Director), who both went on to work for Hill in Washington D.C., were given the lowest bonuses – $2,700 for King and $3,150 for Nayowith.

Conspicuously absent from the list of staffers receiving 2018 election bonuses from the Hill campaign is Hill’s Operations Director/throuple partner.

Katie “cares about women” yet her top staffers were all men, and they all received significantly larger election bonuses. The woman Hill was sleeping with was completely shafted.

How’s that for wage equality?

The post Katie Hill Paid Alleged (Male) Lover a Campaign Win Bonus; Stiffed Throuple Partner appeared first on RedState.

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