CAL FIRE’s Butte Fire investigation blames power company for poor line maintenance

CAL FIRE is seeking $90 million in restitution from Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Map Butte Fire
CAL FIRE’s map of the Butte Fire dated September 12, 2016

An investigation of last September’s 70,868-acre Butte Fire by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection determined that poor maintenance of a power line led to a tree contacting the line, causing the blaze. The fire destroyed a total of 921 structures, including; 549 homes, 368 outbuildings, and 4 commercial properties. Only five other fires in California have destroyed more structures.

Two residents were killed in the fire.

In addition to the $90 million that CAL FIRE is seeking from PG&E, 17 law firms are representing 1,800 people who expect to be reimbursed for damages.

And that is not all of the lawsuits. Below is an excerpt from an article in the Sacramento Bee:

…Calaveras County supervisors say they will seek “hundreds of millions in compensation” from PG&E for the fire, estimated to have caused more than $1 billion in damage in that county.

The county expects to file a civil lawsuit in Superior Court, seeking to recover the county’s costs of responding to the fire, cleanup efforts, and losses of public property, county officials said.

“We are shocked and dismayed by the extent of PG&E’s negligence and will actively seek justice for Calaveras County and its citizens,” said Cliff Edson, chair of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors.

The county will also ask the California Public Utilities Commission to investigate PG&E’s role in the fire, much like the agency did following the fatal 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, said county counsel Megan Stedtfeld. The San Bruno blast killed eight people and destroyed a neighborhood, leading the commission to order the utility to make $1.5 billion in payments to the state and customers and for safety improvements…

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged Butte Fire.

Damage assessment update: two recent California fires have each burned almost 900 structures

California damaging fires

Updated damage assessments for two recent large wildfires in California revealed that a total of 1,770 structures burned on the two fires, including 888 on the Valley Fire south of Clearlake, and 882 on the Butte Fire south of Jackson.

For the purposes of this report, “structures” includes residences, outbuildings, and commercial properties.

Coroner confirms two fatalities in the Butte Fire in California

Kevin Ragio, the Calaveras County Coroner, has confirmed that two bodies have been found in the Butte Fire, which has burned 71,000 acres south of Jackson, California. Both were in Mountain Ranch.

One was found near Baker Riley Road. Mark McCloud, 65, had refused to evacuate and was overcome by the fire. He was found outside his home.

Another body was discovered in the remains of a home in the M 24 community. The release of the name is pending notification of next of kin.

Map Butte Fire 9-15-2015
The red line represents the perimeter of the Butte Fire on September 15, 2015. The white line was the perimeter on September 13.

At last count the destroyed structures in the Butte Fire included 233 residences and 175 outbuildings. Many areas in Calaveras and Amador Counties are still under evacuation notices, but others are being repopulated.

Resources assigned to the fire include 4,865 personnel, 519 fire engines, 92 hand crews, 10 helicopters, and 94 dozers.

Our main article about the Butte Fire.

CAL FIRE reports 135 residences burned in the Butte Fire

A September 16 update on the Butte Fire is in a new article.

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(UPDATED at 12:17 PT, September 14, 2015)

The Butte Fire south of Jackson, California has grown by about 6,000 acres in the last two days and is now listed at 71,063 acres.

CAL FIRE reports that 135 residences and 79 outbuildings have been destroyed.

Fire behavior remained moderate on Sunday allowing crews to be more effective in constructing fireline on the perimeter.

butte fire map
Butte Fire map, 9-13-2015. CAL FIRE.

Evacuations are still in place for many areas in Amador and Calaveras Counties. More details are available at the fire information phone lines: (530) 647-5218 and (209) 754-5527.

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(UPDATE at 10:35 p.m. PT, September 12, 2015)

In a 9:15 p.m PT update from CAL FIRE, the size of the Butte Fire south of Jackson, California remained about the same during the day on Saturday, but damage assessment teams reported that they counted 86 homes and 51 outbuildings that burned in the fire.

Mandatory evacuations are still in place for numerous locations in Amador and Calaveras Counties. More details are available at the fire information phone lines: (530) 647-5218 and (209) 754-5527.

Over 3,800 personnel are assigned to the fire, along with 452 fire engines, 77 hand crews, 17 helicopters, and 94 dozers.

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(UPDATED at 9:43 a.m. PT, September 12, 2015)

West Point E312
Engine 312 from the West Point Fire Protection District. Photo by SLOStringer, used with permission.

Two close calls have occurred on the Butte Fire south of Jackson, California. A truck from the West Point Fire Protection District burned in the private driveway of a home along Highway 26 . The person who took the photo above said it appeared the crew was doing structure protection and that they were able to avoid any major injuries.

The Modesto Bee has an article about “Modesto and Stanislaus Consolidated crews” that had to take refuge behind a structure as the fire “made a significant run at them [with] very erratic fire behavior”. The firefighters did not deploy fire shelters, but their vehicles suffered heat damage described as “cosmetic”, including “bubbled paint, melted plastic trim and melted hose”.

Map Butte Fire
The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite over the Butte Fire at 1:37 a.m. PT, Sept. 12, 2015. The other colors are from earlier satellite overflights. MODIS. (click to enlarge)

CAL FIRE reports that the Butte Fire has burned 64,728 acres and has destroyed 15 structures. Other than evacuations and the number of firefighting resources assigned (3,330 personnel) CAL FIRE has provided little additional information about the fire. Saturday morning they did supply the map below which, although undated, appears to be fairly current.

Map Butte Fire
CAL FIRE’s map of the Butte Fire obtained Sept. 12, 2015. No information was provided about the date of the perimeter.

 

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(UPDATED at 5:30 p.m. PT, September 11, 2015)

Butte Fire
The Butte Fire at 6:09 p.m. on September 10, as seen from above Jackson, CA, looking southeast. Photo by Matthew Rhodes.

CAL FIRE reported at 3 p.m. today that the Butte Fire south of Jackson has burned 50,000 acres since it started 46 hours before on September 9.

More areas have been added to the mandatory evacuation list in Calaveras and Amador Counties. Details are available at the Fire Information phone line, (530) 647-5218 and (209) 754-5527.

map butte fire
The red dots represent heat detected on the Butte Fire at 1:39 p.m. PT, Sept. 11, 2015. MODIS. (click to enlarge)

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