California News

Friday, January 18, 2019

Judge blames deadly California wildfires on PG&Es uninsulated power conductors

A federal judge Thursday blamed uninsulated power conductors owned by PG&E for the bulk of Northern California’s wildfires the past two years – including the deadly Camp Fire in Butte County – adding to the legal woes the utility is confronting. U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is overseeing the company’s criminal probation from the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion, said he has tentatively concluded that uninsulated power conductors lie at the heart of the wildfire crisis that has plunged PG&E into bankruptcy. Alsup made his tentative conclusion as part of his plan, announced a week ago, to force PG&E to embark on a massive equipment inspection and tree-pruning program in advance of the upcoming fire season. He has given PG&E until next Wednesday to respond to that plan, which could also call for widespread blackouts this summer when winds gust to dangerous levels.
San Luis Obispo County Tribune

Two dozen people trapped by rain-swollen Santa Ana River rescued

Firefighters, aided by a helicopter, rescued about two dozen people trapped by rising waters along the rain-swollen Santa Ana River on Thursday as an intense storm moved through the Inland Empire. Those rescued were from several homeless encampments along the riverbed as it courses by Riverside on its eastern bank and Jurupa Valley on the west. No injuries were reported. Not everyone wanted to leave, said Cal Fire/Riverside County Capt. Jason Wachter. He was a member of one of the two boat crews that rescued 14 people. Some were plucked to safety by a Cal Fire helicopter, others were guided out with rope lines, and others managed to walk out on their own. Some of the stranded were huddled on spots of land that had become islands.
The Press-Enterprise

Chaplain serves needs of East Contra Costa Fire Protection District

Fr. Robert Rien, with his warm, infectious smile and seemingly boundless energy, has the rare ability to make everyone feel like the most important person in the room – a trait that serves him well in his role as chaplain for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD). Rien, who is also pastor at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church, has been ECCFPD’s chaplain for two years and brings to the role his 45 years of experience in the priesthood and nearly as many years experience as chaplain for organizations like the U.S. Air Force, the Oakland Fire Department, the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and the Antioch Police Department. His path to the role with ECCFPD began when he met Brian Helmick in 2007, long before Helmick moved to his current role as fire chief. “It’s been a phenomenal experience being able to be with them,” said Rien. “I’m deeply grateful to Brian (Helmick) for bringing me on board. As I’ve gotten to know (the firefighters) better, I’ve been invited into their homes. I’ve met their wives, their children, their families.”

Prosecution Seeks Gag Order in Oakland Ghost Ship Fire Case

Alameda County prosecutors are seeking an order that would ban the Ghost Ship warehouse fire defendants and their attorneys from talking to the news media about the high-profile case. The District Attorney's proposed gag order, which technically is called a "protective order," will be debated at a hearing on Friday morning in front of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson, who recently was assigned to preside over the trial of Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena and creative director Max Harris. Almena, 48, and Harris, 28, are charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the fire during a music party at the warehouse at 1309 31st Ave. on Dec. 2, 2016, which killed 36 people. If the motion by prosecutors Autrey James and David Lim is granted the order would ban Almena, Harris, their attorneys and witnesses and anyone acting on their behalf from talking to the media.
KNTV-TV NBC 11 Bay Area

Menlo Park Fire District Buys House Next to Fire Station

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District announced Thursday the purchase of a one-story, two-bedroom single family dwelling for $941,000 in the Belle Haven area of Menlo Park. The house, located at 1457 Chilco St., is 790 square feet and is directly next door to Fire Station 77 at 1467 Chilco St. Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said in a statement released Thursday the house will be used as an office and base of operations. During the last 12 years, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District has purchased homes and properties next to six of its seven fire stations, according to the release. Two of those stations have been rebuilt and modernized to meet current life safety codes and performance standards needed to make the facilities more resilient, safe and functional for firefighters, according to the release.
KNTV-TV NBC 11 Bay Area

4 patients treated after suspicious package reported at Santa Ana courthouse

Firefighters treated four patients including a sheriff's deputy at the courthouse in Santa Ana after a package was opened that made them feel ill, officials said. A sheriff's deputy opened a package on the third floor of the courthouse and several people immediately felt ill, officials said. An Orange County hazardous materials team and the bomb squad responded around 2:30 p.m. and that area of the courthouse was blocked off, though the rest of the complex continued operations. Court was not in session in that room at the time. Authorities haven't determined yet what substance is involved. The Sheriff's Department said three civilians and one deputy were treated and were transported to a local hospital. They underwent decontamination before being transported. They were not considered to have life-threatening injuries.
KABC-TV ABC 7 Los Angeles

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Central Valley firefighters honored by their peers for their bravery and service

Three firefighters who serve the Central Valley were honored Wednesday by their peers. The awards are presented by the Exchange Club of Fresno, but the nominees are selected by fellow firefighters. And this year, the honor went to chief Brad Driscoll with Fresno Fire, Jose Sanchez with the US Forest Service and battalion chief Jeremiah Wittwer with Cal Fire. Chief Wittwer personally lead the mission to recover the remains of firefighter Braden Varney who was killed in the line of duty during the Ferguson Fire. Cal Fire Chief Mark Johnson says, "In addition to the emotional task, fire conditions were intense which further complicated the severity of the situation. Chief Wittwer accepted the task without hesitation." Each firefighter was presented with a plaque and letters of appreciation from local leaders.
KGPE-TV CBS 47 Fresno

Stolen Tracy fire truck recovered in Manteca

A Tracy Fire Department Battalion Chief’s command vehicle stolen from the scene of an emergency medical call on MacArthur Drive shortly after 1 a.m. Monday was recovered by Manteca police some 30 minutes later with the help of a Manteca fire engine that slowed the vehicle at the AutoZone parking lot in the 100 block of South Main Street. Manteca firefighter Brian Swift said his crew had just completed a medical call in the 100 block of Maple Avenue behind the former location of the Bank of the West, now the India Merchandise Store, for a patient in a homeless encampment who was transported by ambulance to the hospital. They were in the process of turning their fire truck around when they ended up becoming involved in efforts to recover the stolen fire vehicle. Swift said he heard numerous sirens coming into the parking lot area with a number of police cars chasing a vehicle.
Manteca Bulletin

New Mandatory Evacuation Orders Issued in Holy Fire Burn Areas

New mandatory evacuation orders were issued for some Holy Fire burn areas as another round of showers hit the area Thursday morning. People in these zones must leave immediately, the alert stated. The order substantially increases the number of mandatory evacuations, which included only Laguna A as of Wednesday night. Cal Fire officials in the area were preparing for a substantial downpour Thursday. “We’re going to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Cal Fire Capt. Scott Visyak said. Law enforcement officers were seen going door-to-door Wednesday night warning residents to get out before it was too late. In December, emergency crews had to rescue several residents that were trapped in mud and debris flows. Capt. Scott Visyak said National Guard all-terrain vehicles have been brought in just in case a similar situation occurred with this storm. The National Guard vehicles are able to access areas the emergency crews normally can’t reach, Visyak said.
KTLA 5 News

Redondo Beach: Severe Burn Victim Inspires With Story Of Strength, Perseverance

He awoke as firefighters carried him from his house, thick smoke lingering in the air as flames surrounded them. "You're going to be okay," a firefighter told him. That day, 80 percent of Jeff Kuhn's body was burned in a house fire, but he doesn't remember much about it. He doesn't remember the intense pain from his burns, or the sirens wailing as the ambulance rushed down the highway toward the hospital. But he does remember watching trees blur by, and the paramedics telling him they were there to help. Soon after, Kuhn was placed in a medically induced coma and stayed unconscious for nearly two months. "My injury was so bad and so painful that I decided that I wouldn't wish what happened to me on anyone else in the world, not even my worst enemy," Kuhn said. Almost 25 years later, the South Bay local recounts his experiences overcoming his burn injuries and neuromuscular disease in his new book "Blue Sky Lightning: How To Survive And Thrive When Life Blindsides You."

Some Lanes Reopen After Fiery Big Rig Collision on 10 Freeway in Colton Forced Full Closure

Some lanes were reopened late Tuesday night after a fiery multivehicle collision involving a big rig shut down the 10 Freeway in Colton, Caltrans said in a tweet. Authorities responded to the scene on the westbound 10 Freeway just west of La Cadena Drive around 7:40 p.m., according to California Highway Patrol incident logs. Though the interstate was fully blocked for about two hours, by 9:45 p.m. the number 2, 3 and 4 lanes had reopened on the eastbound side, and the number 4 lane reopened on the westbound side. Video footage showed a big rig turned over onto its side and completely engulfed in flames. At least one other vehicle was on fire. CHP investigators remained on scene late Tuesday night, and officials could not confirm whether there were any injuries. Witnesses driving westbound on the freeway described hearing a "big explosion" and seeing debris flying off and hitting their cars.
KTLA-TV WB 5 Los Angeles

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