California News

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sonoma County supervisors OK $42 million for annual firefighting improvements; tax measure possible

Six local fire chiefs stood together Tuesday before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, a show of force emphasizing their request that supervisors spend $42 million a year to hire more firefighters, build fire stations and acquire newer fire engines. “We need to move forward with rescuing our own fire services,” Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner. Supervisors voted enthusiastically for the plan, citing the need to improve safety throughout the county in light of ongoing devastating wildland fires. They also followed the chiefs’ recommendation to look into a possible ½-cent countywide sales tax measure in 2019 to pay for it.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Humboldt Bay Fire saves man and his dog after house fire in Eureka

Humboldt Bay Fire responded to a structure fire a little before 8 p.m. Tuesday near the intersection of Gates St. and County Ln. The Humboldt Bay Fire chief said it was caused while the homeowner was cooking dinner. Multiple engines were on the scene fighting the flames as white smoke began pouring from the top of the home. Humboldt Bay Fire Chief Sean Robertson said when they arrived, the firefighters rescued a dog that was trapped inside. Robertson said nobody was injured, and the flames were put out rather quickly.

Lawmakers focus on fire prevention as blazes rage statewide

Amid a relentless onslaught of horrific wildfires, state lawmakers found it easy Tuesday to pinpoint the most important response: Reduce the fuel feeding the conflagrations that have scorched more than 750,000 acres this year. But making that happen, on a meaningful scale, is fraught with problems, they found. “Obviously, we are in — again — one of the most devastating and destructive fire seasons,” Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott told the 10-member bipartisan committee charged with crafting a legislative response by the end of the month. As Pimlott spoke, at least 15 active wildfires were raging from Shasta County to San Diego County, and he wore a black band on his badge memorializing the Utah firefighter killed Monday while battling the Mendocino Complex fires, the largest in state history. “The risks are real; the challenges are real,” Pimlott said.
Press Democrat

Shell of a rescue: Kern County firefighters free tortoise caught in hole

A large tortoise trapped inside a hole for several days in Southern California has been rescued by firefighters. Officials say a woman called for help to free her 25-year -old sulcata tortoise named Bentley. The reptile had been stuck underground without food and water in the Mojave area. Video of the rescue shared Sunday by the Kern County Fire Department shows firefighters cutting through roots and digging out dirt. Eventually the tortoise was able to walk out on its own. Sulcata tortoises are native to Africa and can weigh up to 230 pounds (105 kilograms) and live 70 years.
KSBY-TV San Luis Obispo

PG&E reminds customers they may shut off power in extreme fire danger

Wildfire season is now year round here in California. "With years of extreme drought, with millions of dead trees in California, this is a new normal for us," said Suzanne Hosn, a spokesperson for PG&E. For companies like PG&E, that means actively reducing fire dangers when they can. "In cases where there's extreme winds and low humidity, we want to reduce the likelihood that vegetation or lines striking one another could be a source of ignition," Hosn explained. Now PG&E has set up a new policy in addition to that - they may turn off the power in areas of extreme fire danger. "It's important for us all to be very aware of wildfire risk. PG&E will try to give as much notice as possible; turning off the power is our last resort for public safety," Hosn said.
KEYT-TV ABC 3 Santa Barbara

Firefighting mars the earth; California crews are fixing it

Jack Hattendorf steers his road grader back and forth across a dirt path cutting through blackened earth. With each pass, he smooths and tamps down the soil to remake a dirt road that fire crews tore apart days earlier to stop flames that would become part of the largest wildfire on record in California. Even as flames chew through forestland nearby, Hattendorf and others are working to repair the damage caused not by flames but by firefighters trying to stop them. They seek to restore private lands, protect the environment and water supply, and prevent erosion that can lead to mudslides like the one that tour though a community outside Santa Barbara in January, killing nearly two dozen people.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Utah Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett killed while fighting Mendocino Complex Fire

The latest firefighter killed while on duty at a California wildfire was identified Tuesday as a fire chief deployed from Utah, according to his city’s fire department and mayor. Draper City Fire Department Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett, 42, died Monday fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire, the dpeartment said in a Tuesday news release shared on Facebook. It was the first fatality in connection to the Ranch Fire, a 300,000-acre blaze that has been burning since July 27. Cal Fire confirmed the death Monday evening, but did not identify the victim at the time. Burchett’s death fighting the Ranch Fire was announced by Draper Mayor Troy Walker at a Tuesday morning press conference.
Merced Sun-Star

Napa County officials scold landfill operators after string of fires

A county-level agency ordered Clover Flat Landfill last week to take corrective measures after the latest in a string of fires at the Upvalley facility. In a Notice of Violation issued Aug. 8, the Napa County Local Enforcement Agency (LEA) that oversees the landfill south of Calistoga ordered the facility to stop processing green waste until it hires a full-time site operations manager, provides adequate water for fire suppression, and takes other steps to minimize the risk of fire. According to Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann, there have been 13 fires at the landfill since July 2013, the most significant occurring on Sept. 1, 2017, and Aug. 6, 2018. Last week’s fire, the third this summer, burned a significant portion of the landfill, and firefighters were “very fortunate” to be able to prevent it from spreading outside the landfill, Biermann told the Upper Valley Waste Management Agency (UVA) on Monday at a meeting in Yountville.
Napa Valley Register

Cloverdale Fire: Brush fire in north San Diego County investigated as arson

A fire that erupted in the San Pasqual area of north San Diego County -- the third in the area in two weeks -- is being investigated as arson. The so-called Cloverdale Fire has burned at least 90 acres and is 25 percent contained, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department officials said Tuesday morning. As of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, California Highway Patrol officials said SR-78 is closed in both directions between San Pasqual Road/Cloverdale Road to Old Milky Way. San Pasqual Road is also shut down between SR-78 and Old Milky Way. According to Cal Fire, the latest fire broke out just before 3 p.m. Monday in brush off state Route 78 and Cloverdale Road, just north of Escondido. Within two hours, the fire increased in size to at least 40 acres. However, crews were able to stop the rate of the fire’s spread just before 6 p.m.
KGTV-TV ABC 10 San Diego

5-Alarm Vallejo Fire Contained, Highway Ramp Reopens

A five-alarm vegetation fire in Vallejo was contained Monday evening and a state highway ramp reopened following that containment, officials with the Vallejo Fire Department and California Highway Patrol said. Danny Gutierrez, firefighter engineer and a spokesperson for the Vallejo Fire Department, said the fire was contained to five acres shortly after 5 p.m. It started near the junction of state Highway 37 and Interstate Highway 80 and went to five alarms because of water issues and how challenging it was for firefighters to get to the fire, which was behind some homes. The fire burned grass and small brush. Gutierrez said the wind pushed the flames away from the homes and none were damaged or destroyed. No one was injured. Fire officials believe a mechanical failure on a vehicle caused the sparks that started the fire.
KPIX-TV CBS 5 San Francisco

Fire burns through several apartments in southeast Fresno complex

Twenty-three people were left homeless Monday after a fire in southeast Fresno burned through several apartments. The fire broke out in the Vista Del Loma apartment complex near Belmont and Manila avenues. About 50 people were evacuated from their apartments after the fire broke out. Just before 10 a.m., a fire broke out in one of the apartments on the west side of the complex, and the flames reached a propane tank Fresno fire officials say no one was hurt. Residents were still evacuated and not able to go into their apartments because of smoke damage as well as lack of electricity. Firefighters were looking into what caused the fire.
KGPE-TV CBS 47 Fresno

Bodycam Video: Police Rush to Aid SPCA as Fire Approaches in Vacaville

Police body camera video captured the daring rescue of 60 cats and dogs from a Northern California animal shelter threatened by a wildfire. Video footage released by the Vacaville Police Department shows officers helping staffers at the Solano County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals racing to get the animals out of the building on Saturday as flames from the Nelson Fire closed in on the facility. The SPCA said firefighters were stationed on the property, ready to fight off the flames as officers, volunteers and staffers evacuated the animals. The shelter said Sunday all of the animals were placed in temporary foster homes until the facility could be cleaned of ash and debris, and power was restored to the area. They hope to reopen on Wednesday.
KNTV-TV NBC 11 Bay Area

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