CAL FIRE confirms — the Camp Fire that destroyed most of Paradise, CA was started by a PG&E powerline

firefighter battles flames Camp Fire
A firefighter battles flames at the Camp Fire. Photo by FirePhotoGirl used with permission.

It comes as no surprise, but the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has confirmed what was long thought, that equipment on a Pacific Gas and Electric power line started the Camp Fire that burned through Paradise, California. PG&E has been saying for months that it was likely their power line started the fire but CAL FIRE’s investigation now makes it official. This could open the floodgates for numerous civil and possibly criminal cases.

CAL FIRE discovered two points of origin, both caused by the power line. One resulted from vegetation coming in contact with a conductor, but they were not specific about the second source. A few days after the fire started there was an unofficial report that a piece of hardware on a 100-year old high voltage transmission tower failed, causing the line to fall, but this has not been officially confirmed.

CAL Fire did not released its full investigative report, saying it had been forwarded to the Butte County District Attorney’s office, which is considering filing criminal charges against the utility.

The fire started early in the morning on November 8, 2018 near the small community of Pulga northeast of Paradise. It burned over 153,000 acres, destroyed 18,804 structures, and resulted in 85 fatalities. It became the most destructive and deadliest wildfire in the recorded history of California.

Very strong winds and low humidity that day spread the fire rapidly into the town making it impossible to safely fly air tankers and helicopters close to the ground. The wind would have also blown retardant or water far off any selected target.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

“Inside the Megafire” premiers May 8 on PBS

Inside the Megafire,” premiering Wednesday, May 8 at 9pm ET/8c and streaming online at PBS

In this episode, NOVA reports from the front line of the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history, and follows scientists racing to understand what’s behind the recent rise in record-breaking megafires—from forestry practices, to climate change, to the physics of fire itself.

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION:

Just a few months after California’s devastating Carr Fire, another blaze became the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. As residents raced to evacuate, the Camp Fire devoured 150,000 acres and claimed 86 lives. But how did it get so big so fast? And why are megafires like these becoming more common? NOVA goes to the front lines of the deadliest fires of California’s 2018 fire season to hear from the people who had to flee—and the scientists racing to understand what’s behind these record-breaking infernos. Researchers take to the forest, and even a fire lab, to understand the increasing megafire threat. They explore the physics of fire itself, documenting how firestorms move and travel, and what causes phenomena like fire tornadoes. In the process, they decode the link between climate change, drought, and wildfire. And they show how those environmental factors—combined with a century of fire suppression in the American West and new residential developments in the forest—may have created an unprecedented risk.

PROGRAM PAGE:
(Full program will be available to stream here for several weeks, even for those who do not have a paid subscription to PBS)
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/video/inside-the-megafire/

30-SECOND TRAILER:
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/novapbs/status/1124373051666239488

CLIF to donate 100% of profits from one of their bars to 2nd responder fund

The first project will help build a new Butte Humane Society facility that will shelter and care for animals impacted by the Camp Fire in California.

I first learned about Clif Bars after discovering that a former coworker, Bruce Lymburn, was the company’s General Counsel. Bruce and I were members of the El Cariso Hot Shots back in the day.

Clif seems like an interesting place to work. Clif Bars are mostly made from organic ingredients, employees can bring their dogs to work, the company gives back to the community through the CLIF Bar Family Foundation, employees are encouraged to volunteer in the community on company time, and they can take two and a half hours of paid exercise each week with free personal training.

The San Francisco Bay Area company made the news the other day with the creation of the CLIF Second Responder Fund.

Most everyone knows what first responders are. They are the first to arrive at emergency scenes — the ones you see in the news — law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. Second responders are the ones that work during the recovery phase, which can last for days, weeks, or months. Examples include power companies, communication companies, hazardous waste cleanup, and services providing food, road clearing, security, first aid, crowd control, sanitation, temporary housing, and social services. The establishment of the CLIF Second Responder Fund will support some of the unmet needs of these second responder efforts.

Clif BarOne hundred percent of all net profits from the sale of Sierra Trail Mix CLIF BAR® Energy Bars will go toward establishing the fund for the long term. Clif Bar & Company has a long history of post-disaster work in communities, often serving as a “second responder” by volunteering, providing financial support and food donations.

The first project of the fund will provide $1.5 million to the community affected by the Camp Fire in Butte County, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. This fund will help the community break ground on a new state-of-the-art Butte Humane Society facility that will shelter and care for animals impacted by the Camp Fire disaster, as well as serve as an emergency center for Northern California in the event of future disasters.

“The devastation created by these fires is unfathomable,” said Gary Erickson co-owner and co-CEO of Clif Bar & Company. “After the flames are extinguished and the camera crews leave, these communities are still desperate for help. This fund will help this community in our own backyard and other communities around the country for years to come.”

The fund was inspired by the work of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. owners Ken Grossman and Katie Gonser, whose community in Chico, California was among those devastated by the Camp Fire. Like Clif Bar, Sierra Nevada is also a family-owned business and the two families have been friends for years. When the fire was in its early stages, Erickson and his wife, Clif Bar & Company co-owner and co-CEO Kit Crawford, reached out to Grossman and Gonser to see how Clif Bar could help.

“When Gary and Kit called, we knew we needed help for our community’s animals. As we listened to the stories and responded to the needs of the community, we knew that help would still be needed long after the initial push of relief had waned,” said Gonser. “The devastation was enormous, with many local families distraught over the lack of care of displaced animals. This shows what two businesses can achieve by working together.” Grossman and Gonser have already donated the land for the new facility.

“Clif is a company full of animal lovers, with many employees bringing their dogs to work with them every day. Not only are animals amazing companions, they’re family,” added Kit Crawford, Co-Owner and Co-CEO of Clif Bar & Company. “We are proud to champion this initial effort and know that this fund will be ongoing to address other needs following national disasters around the country.”

It’s estimated that more than 20,000 animals were impacted by the Camp Fire. The Butte County Humane Society responded immediately, reuniting residents with their pets, providing thousands of pounds of pet food to people who were displaced, and caring for hundreds of injured pets. Through the experience, the staff learned each day and knew a new facility with an expanded mission was needed.

The new Butte Humane Society facility can serve as a centralized information headquarters for animal welfare groups in order to coordinate collective long-term recovery efforts and in preparation for disaster support throughout Northern California. Additionally, in collaboration with other first and second responder animal organizations, the new campus can be used as a crisis evacuation site during local and regional disasters. BHS hopes this will serve as a model for emergency preparedness and response around the country.

The new Sierra Trail Mix packaging will be rolled out nationally this summer in stores and online.

1972 El Cariso Hotshot crew
Part of the 1972 El Cariso Hotshot crew. Bruce Lymburn is at the end of the back row, on the left. Missing: Ron Campbell (superintendent) and Bill Gabbert (took the photo).

In 2007 and again in 2008 Senators Hillary Clinton and Peter King introduced the Skilled Trades Second Responders Act of 2008, which would have established a national program for the training, certification, registration, tracking, and integration of skilled construction workers to assist first responders in responding to disasters, including natural and manmade disasters and terrorist attacks. Both bills died in committee.

Feather River Hospital evacuated 280 patients and staff as Camp Fire approached

Nine buildings on the campus burned as well as the lower level of the hospital

Feather River Hospital Camp fIre burned
Screenshot from a video shot by Feather River Hospital employees as the fire approached.

The details about the evacuation of Feather River Hospital as the Camp Fire tore through Paradise, California on November 8, 2018 were not covered throughly by the national news. The top stories were the 85 people that were killed and the 14,000 homes and businesses destroyed.

The NFPA Journal has an article that covers some of the facts about the evacuation.

The fire was reported at 6:29 a.m. near a high voltage power line northeast of Paradise. Ryan Ashlock, the “administrator on call” that morning, saw the smoke at 7 a.m. when he arrived at the hospital on the east side of Paradise (map). At 7:15 employees could smell smoke inside the building. As the fire pushed by strong winds got closer, at 7:45 Mr. Ashlock called a code triage external, which means there’s something going on in the outside world that they need to be aware of, and that units need to prepare themselves for anything that might be coming.

At 8 a.m. the hospital was within a mandatory evacuation area. At first the staff thought they would be safer inside the building and could shelter in place, in part because the structure had firewalls that can retard the spread of a fire through the building. But a few minutes later the blaze had approached both ends of the hospital’s campus. Mr. Ashlock ordered a full evacuation at 8:07. The staff escorted ambulatory patients, pushed some in wheel chairs, and wheeled others in their beds to the emergency room entrance or the helipad.

The staff made calls in attempts to get ambulances and helicopters to transport patients, but due to gridlocked traffic and the fire, only two ambulances from Chico made it to Paradise near the end of the evacuation. One arrived at the hospital, while the other caught fire and burned. Helicopters could not land at the helipad due to the smoke.

By 8:50 they had evacuated 80 patients and 200 employees. One critically ill intensive-care patient died that day.

Feather River Hospital Camp fIre burned
Screenshot from KRCR TV showing hospital equipment left at the helipad after the evacuation.

Below are excerpts from the NFPA article, in the words of Mr. Ashlock:

8:20 a.m.

Our evacuation plan called for ambulances to come from the town of Paradise. But it’s a small community, so there aren’t many ambulances readily available. Most would come from Butte County. But we weren’t seeing any of those local ambulances and we didn’t know where they were. We were also concerned that ambulances from Chico might not get up here because of the traffic resulting from the entire town of Paradise being evacuated.

Someone over in the emergency department figured out that ambulances weren’t coming. There were Paradise police and Butte County Sheriff’s Office people on site, and I went out to talk to them. As nicely as I could, I asked them, “Where are the firefighters to protect the hospital, and where are the ambulances to help us evacuate?” They said, “We’ve called, and no one’s responding.”

The decision was made to start putting patients into the emergency vehicles that happened to be there, and the rest would have to be put into the personal vehicles of hospital employees—we weren’t going to get off that campus by sitting and waiting for ambulances or firefighters to show up. Clinicians got patients into wheelchairs, patients who could walk were escorted down to the emergency department, patients who were in the ICU or who were unable to walk or get into wheelchairs were rolled out in their beds.

8:50 a.m.

All patients were out of the hospital. The fire stayed about 400 yards away because of the defensible area around the hospital. But the wind started to kick up and embers were blowing over us, and spot fires were starting all around us. Our central plant, where we have our boilers and chillers and generators, was starting to catch fire about the time we got everyone out of the main hospital building. Some of our buildings at the edge of campus were burning, along with our IT building.

Mr. Ashlock said the lower level of the hospital burned pretty extensively, and of the 15 administrative buildings on the campus, nine burned, as well as one clinic.

The video below was shot by Feather River Hospital employees as the fire approached.

Home destroyed in Camp Fire but coin collection found and restored

Joseph Best safe Paradise California Camp Fire
Joseph Best’s photo of his safe that stored his coin collection.

One of the 14,000 homes and businesses that burned in the Camp Fire at Paradise California in November belonged to Joseph Best. During the month evacuated residents were kept out of the burn area he worried about his coin collection that was stored in a “fire proof” safe. When finally allowed back, he found it in the ashes of his home, tipped on its side.

The video below tells the story of how Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, a company that cleans, grades, and packages coins for collectors, extracted Mr. Best’s coins from the melted holders, graded them, and reinstalled the coins in new holders — all at no charge.

Note about “fire proof” safes. The term is misleading. Safes have different levels of fire resistance. Some have more insulating characteristics than others, but if exposed to high enough heat for an extended period of time even the best may allow the inside temperature to rise high enough to damage the contents. Various organizations rate fire resistant safes for time and temperature, for example half an hour at 1,550 degrees, 1 hour at 1,700 degrees, or 2 hours at 1,500 degrees.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Tax relief for victims of November 8 wildfires in California

Applies to victims of the Camp and Woolsey Fires

IRSPeople who reside in or had businesses in the areas that burned in the wildfires that started in California on November 8, 2018 could qualify for federal tax relief.

The Camp and Woolsey Fires destroyed thousands of homes in Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Since the President declared the fires to be major disasters residents with losses in those locations may be able to take advantage of slightly extended deadlines for filing federal tax returns.

In addition, taxpayers in the federally declared disaster areas have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax return for either the year in which the event occurred, or the prior year. See IRS Publication 547 for details. IRS Publication 976 has instructions for tax relief for the California fires of 2017.

Individuals may deduct personal property losses that are not covered by insurance or other reimbursements. IRS Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts, has more details.

General information about the program can be found at the IRS website.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jim. Typos or errors, report them HERE.