California: Wheatland Fire near Lake View Terrace

Above: the approximate location of the Wheatland Fire near Lake View Terrace in southern California.

A brush fire that has blackened about 183 acres put up an impressive amount of smoke today. The fire broke out in mid-afternoon on Monday and by evening had slowed considerably. Fire officials called it 35 percent contained at 6 p.m.

The Wheatland Fire is north of the 210 freeway in the Lake View Terrace area above Wheatland Avenue in southern California. It burned north away from homes until its progress was impeded by a deepening marine layer and by ridgelines, making it feasible for aircraft to drop water and retardant in those areas, assisting firefighters on the ground and slowing the fire.

California: Metz Fire burns thousands of acres near Soledad

Metz Fire
Metz Fire. Photo via NPS.
The Metz Fire was reported mid-afternoon on Sunday southeast of Soledad, California and within about six hours was mapped by CAL FIRE at 3,878 acres. At that point the spread slowed and it was still reported at the same size the next morning at 8:15 a.m. PDT. One of our readers told us there were seven air tankers assigned.

The fire is about three miles southwest of Pinnacles National Park.

Map Metz Fire
Map of the Metz Fire, May 23, 2016. CAL FIRE.

Using a dozer to mop up a structure fire

Dozers are commonly used on vegetation fires, but it is unusual to see them at a structure fire. In the video above, Los Angeles County Fire Department used a dozer to assist firefighters during the overhaul or mop up stage of a structure fire in Lancaster, California Thursday night. Apparently there was a large quantity of material inside the commercial building that would have been difficult to completely extinguish without spreading out the burning debris. It looks like they were using foam or a wetting agent in the water to achieve greater penetration.

Lancaster structure fire
Commercial building fire in Lancaster, California. Via @LACoFDPIO

California: Casitas Fire in Ventura County burns 50 acres

Fire photographer Jeff Zimmerman sent us this photo of the Casitas Fire near Highway 33 in Ventura County in southern California. It started on April 28 and burned 50 acres before being contained.

Jeff wrote:

Another fast moving brush fire in Ventura County forced crews for a short time to retreat into a safety zone on a ridge top, in very steep terrain along Highway 33 at Casitas Vista Dr. and Ventura Ave. Approximately 60 acres were charred as crews raced to cut off the lateral spread. As the afternoon winds increased in speed from the west the fire jumped control lines, forcing crews into the black on top of the ridge line. The spot fire jumped the ravine and came up canyon in a steep bowl covered in grass and sage. I don’t think anyone was injured but it is a reminder that fire season is here in Southern California. Numerous agencies from Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Kern County, Los Angeles County and the United States Forest all worked in unison to control the blaze.

More information from Twitter about the fire:

The image below, which seems to be a photo of a computer screen, appears to show not only the fire perimeter but also the location of firefighting units. Click on it a couple of times to see a larger version.

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.

Arsonist’s selfie at King Fire leads to sentence of 20 years in prison

A man’s selfie video was one of the important pieces of evidence that led to him becoming a suspect in starting the 2014 King Fire that burned about 100,000 acres east of Placerville, California. Wayne Allen Huntsman, who pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of felony arson, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $60 million in restitution.

Wayne Allen Huntsman
Wayne Allen Huntsman

After starting the fire, Mr. Huntsman showed someone he had just met who was giving him a ride, a video of himself standing near two points of origin of the King Fire. The good citizen recorded Mr. Huntsman’s video and reported what he had seen. Three days later Mr. Huntsman was in jail. Media outlets reported that he was held in lieu of $10 million bail.

On September 15, 2014, during the fire suppression efforts, 12 firefighters on an inmate crew became at least partially entrapped and deployed their fire shelters. But they were not in a safe deployment site. Pilots in firefighting aircraft talked to them on the radio and directed them as they walked and ran a considerable distance to a location where they could be extracted by helicopters.

The charges against Mr. Huntsman included a special allegation — arson with aggravating factors. The complaint said those factors were:

A firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency personnel suffered great bodily injury as a result of the offense.

His criminal history at the time of arrest showed four past felonies, including three 1997 convictions in Santa Cruz County for assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft and auto theft.

Below is a video of Mr. Huntsman’s video recorded by the person that gave Mr. Huntsman a ride.

This next video is an excellent report on the whole story. At first I thought the audio at the beginning was screwed up, but the multiple voices eventually resolve to normal narration.