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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    What’s to blame for wine country fires? PG&E isn’t the only suspect

    What’s to blame for wine country fires? PG&E isn’t the only suspect


    BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD
    OCTOBER 20, 2017 12:00 PM

    The fires of October are contained, for the moment. The mop-up has started. Disbelief and adrenalin are giving way to the long, acrid slog of assessing the losses and apportioning blame.


    Especially blame. The deadliest week in California fire history had scarcely begun when, on Oct. 10, the Bay Area News Group reported that at least 10 of the first 911 calls in Sonoma County involved downed Pacific Gas and Electric transformers and power lines sparking and arcing.


    WHILE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WAITS TO LEARN WHETHER PG&E BEARS ANY BLAME FOR THIS DISASTER, THERE ARE LESSONS BEYOND WHOM TO TAKE TO COURT.


    The news was hardly a surprise. Sped by ferocious Diablo winds gusting at 50 mph or more in some places, multiple fires were roaring in and around the wine country of Northern California. More than 40 fatalities have been confirmed so far, with more than 5,700 structures destroyed, including more than 2,800 homes just in hard-hit Santa Rosa. State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones last week said the loss estimates had topped $1 billion.

    Determining the cause will take weeks, if not months. At least two investigations have been launched into the disaster.


    Nonetheless, last week brought the first of what will surely be a mountain of lawsuits against PG&E. It has been only six months since the state fined the utility $8.3 million for failing to maintain a power line that ignited the 2015 Butte Fire in Amador County, scorching nearly 71,000 acres and killing two people.

    Wayne and Jennifer Harvell, who lost their home in the Santa Rosa suburb of Coffey Park, charged in San Francisco Superior Court that PG&E failed to properly maintain their power lines, causing the destruction of their home on Mocha Lane and those of more than 1,000 of their neighbors. Coffey Park, a modest neighborhood whose occupants included local firefighters, has been reduced to a moonscape, covered in ash.


    But while Northern California waits to learn whether PG&E was negligent again, it may not hurt to think about other factors. Ancillary lessons are suggesting themselves, and from a rebuilding standpoint, they’re at least as valuable as figuring out whom to take to court.


    There’s the question, for instance, of where the fire hazard zones actually are now. Coffey Park, for example, was supposed to be relatively safe.


    Fire hazard maps drawn in the early 2000s by state fire officials placed it outside the “very severe” hazard zone to the east, nearer the rural mountains and wildlands. As a result, the development didn’t have to comply with the stringent regulations that apply to buildings in riskier fire zones.


    In theory, any fire would have to jump the 101 Freeway to reach the manicured grid of tidy tract houses. And yet when the wind kicked up and Tubbs Fire blew in, its sheer force was such that the development was deluged with a sideways rain of flaming embers.


    “These fires were burning with a ferocity I haven’t seen in 31 years,” CalFire spokeswoman Janet Upton, who grew up in Sonoma County, told an editorial board member.

    “The flames were sheeting across the ground like floodwater.”


    Max Moritz, a fire specialist at the University of California Cooperative Extension, compared the Tubbs Fire to the Santa Ana wind-driven wildfires that regularly rip down the canyons into Southern California suburbs, with the added twist of bigger, denser Northern California vegetation, dried like mega-kindling.


    Such fires have not been the norm in cooler, damper NorCal, but the occurrence of such a monster here this year “forces us to consider that this kind of fire could happen in lots of places,” Moritz said. That means not only recalculating risk, but remapping for vulnerabilities such as the age of the housing stock, the types of vegetation, and the state of the roads and communications in case of evacuations.


    And it will necessarily mean rethinking building codes and insurance in parts of the state that once seemed safer, an expensive proposition. Great swaths of Northern California might have to learn to live like homeowners in fire-prone Malibu.


    Which is another takeaway: preparation. One of the most effective ways to protect a neighborhood from wildfire is brush clearance and landscaping to give firefighters a “defensible space.”


    Forcing homeowners to comply with vegetation management regulations isn’t easy, even in high-risk areas, but the state and municipalities may need to tighten such regulations. Last week, the Oakland Firesafe Council, a nonprofit working to reduce risk in the Oakland Hills, did an eye-opening compliance spot-check in the area devastated by a deadly fire 26 years ago this weekend.

    Despite scars from that lethal catastrophe, up to a third of private properties and about half of public properties were out of compliance with clearance regulations, with redwoods dangling over rooftops and shrubbery overgrowing the grounds of private schools.


    Running through these early insights is the question of climate change, and how that should determine development. Almost 40 million people inhabit California, and their presence alone is a fire hazard in a widening share of this state.


    Homes with unscreened chimneys and shake shingled roofs and yards shaded with tall juniper trees and fragrant eucalyptus are bombs waiting to go off in the event of a wildfire. Not to mention the 4.2 million or so power poles that bring phone, cable and electricity to Californians.


    Even if PG&E’s poles were victims of the recent fires, and not causes, their toppling and burning blocked roads, and their failure hampered emergency communications.

    Making utilities swap out wood for stronger metal or concrete means higher utility bills, as the cost will surely be passed to ratepayers.


    Undergrounding power lines is another choice, but that’s even more costly. Plus, poles are a key component in the rollout of “5G” wireless networks, which will guide self-driving cars, and connect the “internet of things” to Californians’ households.


    In other words, long after the lawsuits from these fires have settled, Californians will still be looking at tradeoffs. And wondering, no doubt, whom to blame.

    http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editor...179992956.html
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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Bury the lines. Problem solved.

  4. #4
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Buried Electric Lines Costly, Tough To Repair

    OTHER OPINION

    January 28, 2012|By JOHN TANAKA

    Extensive power outages in Connecticut following Tropical Storm Irene and the surprise October snowstorm have led to calls for burying electrical lines, in the hope that buried lines would not be susceptible to damage from trees that break and blow over in severe storms.


    The initial expense of burying utility lines is one deterrent — it can cost as much as five to 10 times more to install power distribution lines underground, according to a study for the Edison Electric Institute. But there are other problems to consider, too.





    If there is a failure in an underground electrical line, it's harder to find. With an overhead line, you can see that a tree has brought down a line, and you know exactly where the failure is located. With proper tree trimming, you can even prevent such damage.

    Underneath the surface, it's another story. A different type of tree becomes an issue for underground lines. My research on electrical insulation, as a professor of chemistry at the University of Connecticut, has centered on the phenomenon of "treeing" in underground cables. These "trees" are degradation that develops in insulation, small fissures or cracks that branch out into various configurations — some look like bushes, others like many-branched trees, depending on the type of impurities present in the cable. The cracks allow moisture to enter the wires and create shorts.


    At the Institute of Materials Science at the University of Connecticut, we can slice cable insulation on a lathe, dye it, and see where "trees" have developed.


    Treeing is related to impurities in the cable insulation material.

    Like an old electrical cord, insulation cracks, and the wire is exposed. Even very pure polyethylene is eventually biodegradable. When "trees" occur, a partial discharge of current takes place, which portends the beginning of a breakdown.


    Because it can cost millions of dollars to install underground lines in just one subdivision, utility companies would like to precisely locate these underground partial discharges so that only the cable that is failing is dug up and spliced.


    Even when they find a damaged cable, splicing it underground is trickier and requires more skill than splicing an overhead line on a utility pole.


    Much research attention has been given to locating partial discharges in underground cable and to finding better insulation materials. To locate these underground failures, utilities hire companies that specialize in doing this by bouncing signals down the line.


    Once the problem is located, the cable, located two or three feet underground, must be dug up for repair. In winter, that can be no small task. If grandpa's favorite bush has been planted in that area, it can even mean overcoming homeowner resistance. "Heritage bushes" are not an uncommon problem.


    There isn't any insulation material for cables that will absolutely prevent biodegradation underground. The best solution so far has been to manufacture cable insulation in a closely controlled, clean process, ship it in sealed containers, and transfer it in aseptic conditions to wire companies, in order to avoid impurities. It just isn't an inexpensive process.


    In short, although we have seen in our recent storms the damage that can be caused to our overhead electric lines by trees, damage from trees that we can't easily see also affects underground electric cable. In addition, underground lines can be more difficult and can take longer to repair, depending on conditions.



    No form of power distribution is perfect. While the easy solution may seem to be switching from overhead to underground lines, there are significant problems to consider.

    As we continue with research on electric cable insulation, we will find out more about the problems and how to fix them.


    John Tanaka is emeritus professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Connecticut, a life fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and former editor of Electrical Insulation Magazine.

    http://articles.courant.com/2012-01-...ty-lines-cable

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  5. #5
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Electric users ask: Why not put power lines underground?

    By Matt Smith, CNN
    Updated 1:26 PM ET, Wed February 12, 2014

    The majestic trees that line streets across the American South are a beautiful sight most of the year.

    Then there are the weeks when a winter storm hits, and the trees shed ice-laden limbs that crash down on the power lines below. It's at those times when millions of normally genteel Southern voices rise as one to ask, "Why aren't these &@$#*%! wires underground?"


    In one word: Money.


    How bad will it get?


    After a 2002 storm that knocked out electricity to 2 million customers in North Carolina, regulators there took a look at what it would cost to bury the three major power companies' overhead lines.

    The state Utilities Commission concluded the project would be "prohibitively expensive."


    "Such an undertaking would cost approximately $41 billion, nearly six times the net book value of the utilities' current distribution assets, and would require approximately 25 years to complete," the report states. Customers' rates would have to more than double to pay for the project, the commission' staff found.


    It's not the snow, it's the ice

    And underground lines "are not without their disadvantages," they concluded. While more reliable "under normal weather conditions," they take almost 60% longer to fix when something does happen to them.


    Underground power lines make up about 18% of U.S. transmission lines, according to the federal Energy Information Agency. Nearly all new residential and commercial developments have underground electric service, the agency said. But it noted that underground power lines cost five to 10 times more than overhead wires, don't last as long and cost more to replace.


    Stir crazy? How to stay sane


    "Buried power lines are protected from the wind, ice and tree damage that are common causes of outages, and so suffer fewer weather or vegetation-related outages," it concluded. "But buried lines are more vulnerable to flooding, and can still fail due to equipment issues or lightning."


    But there are some places that have decided to go ahead and dig.


    In Anaheim, California, the city is gradually burying its above-ground power lines, a project that dates back to the 1990s. The city added a 4% surcharge to electric bills to pay for the 50-year project, which costs more than $3 million a mile.

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/12/us/win...nes/index.html

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  6. #6
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    Oh that peanuts for California. You spend 20 times that on illegal aliens and anchor babies. On a 30 year bond issue, that's a billion or so a year plus interest. PEANUTS!!

  7. #7
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    The Wildomar fire, which began Thursday after a motorcyclist crashed into a tree . . .
    ----------------------

    Cleveland National Forest: Evacuation orders lifted, blaze at 850 acres

    The Wildomar fire has grown to 200 acres in the Cleveland National Forest.

    Sarah Parvini and Alene Tchekmedyian Contact Reporters

    A fast-moving wildfire that ignited in a remote off-road vehicle park in the Cleveland National Forest grew to 850 acres on Friday, but firefighters were gaining control as cooler temperatures prevailed, officials said.

    The Wildomar fire, which began Thursday after a motorcyclist crashed into a tree
    , was 50% contained and evacuation orders in Wildomar and La Cresta were lifted by 6 p.m.


    The fire was reported about 12:30 p.m. Thursday about eight miles down South Main Divide Road from Ortega Highway.

    An 18-year-old man was riding alone on a dirt road when he hit a bump and lost control of his Yamaha motorcycle and crashed into a tree, California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Lassig said. The throttle of the motorcycle got stuck, and the tank sprang a leak, lighting the tree and surrounding brush on fire.




    The rider attempted to put out the flames “using what was around him,” then ran two to three miles to grab his cellphone in his truck and call authorities, Lassig said.

    The rider, who was wearing a helmet and off-road motorcycle gear, sustained minor scrapes, Lassig added.


    Hundreds of firefighters — including air and ground crews — were battling the blaze. Fire officials said cooler temperatures over the weekend should help contain the flames.


    “We’re hoping that’ll get us the head start that we need,” said Olivia Walker, public affairs officer for the Cleveland National Forest.


    Authorities ordered evacuations for homes on Hixson Truck Trail and parts of the La Cresta community. A total of 200 homes were evacuated before the orders were lifted Friday evening, according to forest officials.

    The off-roading trails are used mostly on weekends by motorcyclists and Jeep drivers, said Jeanna Smith, an administrative assistant for Cleveland National Forest. Riders must be equipped with spark arresters, Smith said.


    “We have pretty strict rules” because of the fire danger, she added.


    In some areas, the trails are surrounded by oily chaparral up to 20 feet tall that has not burned in decades, Smith said.


    “The fuels are still really, really dry out there,” Smith said.

    “Luckily the winds aren’t blowing like they were [during] the Canyon 2 fire” in Anaheim, she said.

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/...027-story.html

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  8. #8
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Marlon Coy is suspected of starting the fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains over an apparent dispute, authorities say . . .
    -------------------
    Authorities: Bear Fire started by man already arrested in looting of evacuated home


    Marlon Coy is suspected of starting the fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains over an apparent dispute, authorities say


    By ROBERT SALONGA | rsalonga@bayareanewsgroup.com and MICHAEL TODD | mtodd@santacruzsentinel.com | Bay Area News Group
    PUBLISHED: October 27, 2017 at 12:06 pm | UPDATED: October 28, 2017 at 3:16 am

    Bear Fire started by man already arrested in looting of evacuated home
    Bay Area News Group


    SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — The man who investigators believe started the Bear Fire that burned nearly 400 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains — destroying two homes and injuring over a dozen firefighters — was already in jail on suspicion of looting a home evacuated for the fire, authorities announced Friday.

    Related Articles





    Marlon Dale Coy, 54, of Boulder Creek, is expected to be charged with multiple arson-related crimes, on top of the burglary and theft counts for which he previously being held in Santa Cruz County jail. According to his listed booking offenses, the fires caused a minimum of $7 million in damage.

    Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Clark announces the arrest of Marlon Dale Coy on three counts of arson in starting the Bear Fire. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

    Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said Coy set the fire in front of three other men during an apparent dispute. Coy reportedly denied responsibility for the blaze.

    The Bear Fire, which broke out the night of Oct. 16 at a home on Diane’s Way, an offshoot of Bear Creek Canyon Road east of Boulder Creek, consumed 391 acres and destroyed two homes, four outbuildings, five recreational vehicles and 17 vehicles, the Sheriff’s Office said Friday.


    Coy first aroused suspicion after a residential burglary reported Oct. 17, the day after the fire started, at a home on Hidden Springs Lane that had been evacuated because of its proximity to the Bear Fire. Coy allegedly stole $15,000 worth of property, including jewelry and a bicycle.



    Some of Coy’s “associates” helped lead detectives to a location in Santa Cruz, where authorities say Coy was arrested while riding a stolen bicycle and wearing stolen cycling gear, and was found with a backpack containing other stolen property.

    In the wake of the fire, detectives received multiple reports of Coy being spotted in the area with several other men. Those same associates reportedly implicated Coy in the fire.


    Hart said he had rarely seen such reckless and depraved acts.


    “This case had the potential to really blow up on us,” he said Friday.


    According to jail records, Coy is now booked on five felony counts encompassing arson involving forest lands and inhabited structures, and arson causing great bodily injury.


    That’s on top of his earlier arrest, which yielded nine felony counts covering burglary, grand theft, conspiracy, carjacking, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Two of those counts stem from an unrelated warrant that had been issued for Coy for being a felon in possession of a firearm and brandishing a firearm.


    The dispute that investigators say preceded the fire occurred between Coy and the other men downhill from the Diane’s Way property, whose listed owner is Julia Cabibi. All four men reportedly lived on the property, and Coy was apparently in a dating relationship with Cabibi, who also lived on the parcel in a home that was destroyed by the fire.


    Detectives are looking to speak with Cabibi, but said she is neither a suspect nor a person of interest. Cabibi posted on her Facebook page prior to Friday’s announcement that she already believed fire was started intentionally.


    “My house got burned down because some (expletive) was stealing my uncle’s muscle cars and I found him out,” Cabibi wrote.


    The property is strewn with more than 30 gutted vehicles, and a variety of fuel tanks and generators. Sgt. Chris Clark said the Sheriff’s Office is aware of allegations about vehicle theft at the property, which incidentally was raided by authorities in 2015 for housing a chop shop. Cabibi was arrested and later pleaded guilty to two criminal charges in connection with the case.


    Neighbors said they noticed an increase in the frequency of gunfire in the area in the days leading up to the fire.


    Including Coy, there have been six arrests in the immediate fire zone since since the Bear Fire began its destruction with a house at 475 Diane’s Way near the 800 block of Bear Creek Canyon Road.


    Three men were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after they fired a shotgun at the vehicle of a couple reportedly looking for a lost dog near a marijuana farm about a half-mile from the fire’s origin. One of the suspects also threatened the pair with a baseball bat. The couple was also arrested for entering a restricted disaster area.


    Thirteen firefighters were injured while battling the flames amid steep and rugged terrain, officials said. Three of those injuries were deemed serious, and one of the injured firefighters remains in the hospital.


    Cal Fire said it planned to patrol the area over the next few days and encouraged residents to report any signs of smoke.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/2...vacuated-home/
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    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Canyon Fire 2, which torched 9,000-plus acres and destroyed homes, ignited by embers from previous fire


    Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG
    A water dropping helicopter dumps water on a home on Via El Estribo in Anaheim Hills during the Canyon Fire 2 in Anaheim, California, on Monday, October 9, 2017.

    By SCOTT SCHWEBKE | sschwebke@scng.com | Orange County Register
    PUBLISHED: November 6, 2017 at 12:18 pm | UPDATED: November 6, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    The devastating Canyon Fire 2 that scorched more than 9,000 acres and destroyed 25 structures last month was started when high winds pushed smoldering embers from a clump of oak ignited by the previous Canyon Fire in the same area, Anaheim Fire and Rescue officials said Monday.

    “The winds that came up were some of the strongest winds we have had in years,” Chief Randy R. Bruegman said at a news conference. “It was an environment created by that wind.”


    With 50 mph Santa Ana winds blowing, there was little that could be done, said Sgt. Daron Wyatt.


    “Once the embers got into the fresh vegetation, there was nothing that could be done to stop it,” he said.

    http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/06...previous-fire/

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    PG&E says private power line might have sparked deadly wine country fire

    Associated Press


    The deadliest of last month’s wildfires in California’s wine country may have been started by electrical equipment not owned or installed by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the utility said in a court filing.

    PG&E said in a legal filing Thursday that a preliminary investigation suggests that a private power line may have started the blaze that killed 21 people and destroyed more than 4,400 homes in Sonoma County.
    Another 22 people were killed and at least 4,500 more structures were destroyed in Northern California wildfires that began Oct. 8.


    Although the cause of the fire that decimated a Santa Rosa neighborhood has not been determined, “preliminary investigations suggest that this fire might have been caused by electrical equipment that was owned, installed and maintained by a third party,” PG&E attorneys wrote in the filing with the Judicial Council of California, the policymaking body of California courts.


    PG&E did not name the third party, but referenced a location in neighboring Napa County that investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have zeroed in on as they try to determine the cause of the blaze.


    Lynn Tolmachoff, a Cal Fire spokeswoman, said she couldn’t comment on the filing due to the ongoing investigation, “but we’ll take anything that PG&E submits to us as part of that investigation.”

    The filing comes in response to 15 wildfire-related lawsuits against PG&E. It gives no supporting evidence other than referring to an electric incident report that the utility submitted to state regulators on Nov. 2 in which it documented 10 cases in Sonoma and Napa counties of toppled trees, downed lines and other damaged equipment. The report does not say whether those incidents may have caused or contributed to the fires.


    In that report, the utility noted Cal Fire investigators took possession of equipment at a fire-damaged home near Calistoga, including a “secondary service line that had detached from the fire-damaged home.”


    “Cal Fire also took possession of multiple sections of customer-owned overhead conductor that served multiple pieces of customer-owned equipment on the property,” PG&E said.


    Earlier this year, the California Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E $8.3 million for failing to maintain a power line that sparked a massive blaze in 2015 in Amador County that destroyed 549 homes and killed two people. A state fire investigation found the utility and its contractors failed to maintain a gray pine tree that slumped into a power line, igniting the fire.

    http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/...110-story.html



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