Sacramento fire officials addressing ‘uptick’ in fires at homeless encampments this winter

‘We don’t want these fires to further extent into maybe a vehicle or someone’s house,’ the Sacramento Fire Department said.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As the temperatures cool down this winter, fire officials in Sacramento are expecting to deal with more fires caused by homeless individuals.

The Sacramento Fire Department sees an increase in encampment fire incidents between November and February. While unhoused people are allowed to set fires for warmth and food, the flames can get dangerous if they get out of hand.

“A lot of times, these fires are really close to tents or other belongings, and just a smaller ember cast into that tent can light that tent on fire. They’re just usually nylon, so they’re very flammable,” Sacramento Fire Spokesperson Justin Sylvia said. “We don’t want these fires to further extend into maybe a vehicle or someone’s house.”

To prevent that, Sylvia said there are certain recommendations those experiencing homelessness should follow when it comes to setting fires:

  • Use a metal/combustible container, just as a grill or dryer drum
  • Create a 25-foot clearance area around the fire
  • Flames should be less than three feet tall

“That way, it’s going to do its job, serve its purpose, for cooking food and keeping you warm, but it’s also going to keep you safe and not catch other belongings on fire,” Sylvia said.

Click here to read the full article in KCRA

Farmer’s Joins Insurance Exodus from California

Another major insurance company — Farmer’s — will stop providing many insurance policies in California, joining an exodus of insurers from the state.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday:

Farmers Direct Property and Casualty Insurance Company will withdraw from all insurance programs offered in California, including home, auto and renters policies. Most of the policyholders with Farmers Direct will get “soft-landing offers,” which will resemble renewals in another Farmers company, according to Michael Soller, deputy insurance commissioner. He estimates there will be only about 2,800 Farmers Direct policyholders who may not get an offer.

In July, Farmers Insurance capped the number of policies it would write each month due to “record-breaking inflation, severe weather events, and reconstruction costs continuing to climb,” according to the company. It made a similar move in Florida, another coastal state heavily impacted by severe weather.

Click here to read the full article in BreitbartCA

Fire destroys massive, historic north hangar at shuttered Tustin airfield

A powerful fire ripped through one of two 17-story-high hangars still standing at the long-shuttered Tustin Marine Corps Air Station early Tuesday morning, Nov. 7, leading to a catastrophic collapse of most of the iconic structure’s outer shell.

Dozens of Orange County firefighters responded when the blaze was first reported at the north hangar just before 12:55 a.m. By midmorning, however, they stood by watching the structure burn, helpless to stop its demise.

For update, see: Tustin hangar was largest surviving artifact of Marine aviation and a landmark for OC

Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Thanh Nguyen said sending firefighters into the building was too dangerous.

“The biggest fear is collapse and getting our firefighters injured,” Nguyen said.

The cause of the fire and where it began were not clear Tuesday.

No injuries were reported and firefighters did not believe anyone was inside the building when the fire broke out, Ngueyn said.

OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy said early Tuesday the fire was expected to stretch across the length of the hangar, which will ultimately need to be demolished. He said it could take a lengthy amount of time before the fire was out. When firefighters arrived, the blaze was intense.

“We expect the fire to continue … possibly until it gets to the other side of the hangar, and whether that be the end of the day, tomorrow — whether it stops at some point in between, we don’t know,” Fennessy said. “So at this point we’re standing back, keeping people and firefighters away and we’re watching.”

By evening, the roof and one of the two long sides were gone, with the gigantic framing for the big doors still upright. The blaze appeared out; firefighters planned to stay overnight to keep watch for any flames kicking up.

But early Tuesday was chaotic.

Just before 6:30 a.m., firefighters said the plan was to allow the hangar to collapse. Only after the roof came down would fire officials send in ground crews.

At first, fire officials sent in helicopters including a Boeing CH-47 Chinook to help fight the blaze. Nguyen said helicopters are typically not used to douse a structure fire with water.

“This is not a regular fire,” Nguyen said.

But it later became clear dumping water on the structure was having no effect.

“It was felt that perhaps … it was possible for us to maybe slow it down and maybe get our ladder trucks in close enough to be able to slow it down,” Fennessy said. “That was not the case, so we cancelled them and returned them.”

Both hangars once housed blimps used in World War II and later provided cover for military helicopters.

The hangars were built in 1942, Fennessy said, and are two of the largest wooden structures ever constructed. They were named historic civil engineering landmarks in 1993.

The hangars have been featured in television shows and films, among them “JAG,” “The X Files,” “Austin Powers,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Star Trek.”

For some time, there were plans to raze the north hangar and use the space to construct homes and a regional park. But the plans were never realized, and in August 2021 the City Council voted to scrap the park and maintain the site.

Tustin Mayor Austin Lumbard called Tuesday a sad day for the city. He described the two hangars as more than just structures.

“It’s a personal thing to a lot of (the) Tustin community,” Lumbard said. “They mean so much to the city’s past, to the region’s military history.”

Before the fire, Lumbard said, a decision hadn’t been made on the ultimate fate for the north hangar. It was damaged by heavy winds in 2013 and had been supported by two cranes.

“It’s just been kind of sitting there, damaged,” Lumbard said. “There’s community sentiment that wants to save the hangars, (but it’s) very, very cost prohibitive to repair those things and bring them up to commercial code.”

Lumbard said the city looks forward to collaborating on what ultimately will happen to the remaining hangar and the former air station’s 85 acres.

The city, he said, recently invested in new fencing, adding signs and cutting overgrown vegetation in the area.

Councilmember Letitia Clark said the U.S. Navy needed to do more.

“I think we did everything we could in our power to really ensure that the site was clean and safe,” Clark said. “I think the hindsight-20/20 part is really more on the Navy.”

Clark said the city has an operational agreement with the Navy, which owns both hangars.

“I hope that the Navy is now aware that there’s probably more that they could have done,” Clark said. “And, hopefully, there’s more they can do now in terms of helping us move forward with making sure the site is clean and that we can move forward to fully transitioning ownership of the (south) hangar from them to us.”

U.S. Navy officials did not address the councilmember’s concerns on Tuesday.

“The Navy thanks the Orange County Fire Authority for quickly arriving to the scene of the fire and preventing the fire from spreading to nearby structures,” a Navy statement said. “The Navy is working closely with the city of Tustin and Orange County Fire Authority to determine the cause of the fire.”

Tuesday morning, every few minutes, the dying structure emitted a loud, low rumble as the metal and wood inner lattice still holding up the curved roof started to give way, sending debris crashing down to the hangar floor in burning heaps.

By 9 a.m., fire crackled along the edges of the gaping hole now making up nearly half of the old hangar. Flames ripped through the interior, bursting through the hangar’s roof in spots.

Amid billowing columns of brownish, white smoke, pieces of the hangar’s outer covering were ripped from its walls. The pieces twirled up in the air like confetti before raining back down on the fields and streets around the building. The loud snaps and pops of flames and the explosions periodically rumbling through the old structure served as the death throes of one of Orange County’s most iconic buildings.

Like giant soda cans tipped over in the sand, the twin, hulking hangars at the air station have sat here for longer than many locals have called Orange County home.

The air station was one of the first sights Curtis Schneider, 61, remembers seeing when his family first drove through the area after moving here in the 1970s.

In a T-shirt, shorts, sandals and sunglasses, Schneider stood just behind the open driver’s door of his car, holding his phone up to capture the destruction. When one loud blast roared from the burning building, he tensed up.

“Whoa!” he said, as others in the group of about 50 onlookers hooted and hollered. Still watching, Schneider took a quick drag from his vape pen.

He recalled standing on the floor of the hangar beneath its towering walls for different events over the years, when visitors were still allowed inside.

“We saw car shows in there, helicopter shows,” Schneider said. “We had some good times in that hangar.”

Tammy Murphy, 65, looked on in horror and wonder as decades of Southern California history burned to the ground in front of her. Murphy stood with her two grandchildren just behind a chain-link fence about a quarter of a mile from the hangar.

“Oh my god — so many emotions,” she said. “These were here when I was a kid growing up.”

She remembered seeing the Blue Angels perform here. Her father was in the military and would take her to shop at the air station grocery store.

“It was bustling,” Murphy said, about the facility before it closed for good in 1999.

Local officials tried for years to develop a plan for what to do with the hangars. It’s a history Schneider said he knows well.

He answered his cellphone, on speaker phone.

“That’s a historic building,” the caller said.

Schneider replied: “It was.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Santa Ana winds trigger power shutoffs, Red Flag Alert

LOS ANGELES – Due to ongoing Santa Ana wind conditions, the city of Los Angeles extended its Red Flag No Parking restrictions in brush areas until 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The Red Flag Alert and enforcement of special parking rules went into effect at 8 a.m. Sunday and conditions prompted the continuation of the restrictions, according to Nicholas Prange of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The gusty conditions also shut off power in some areas of Southern California.

The winds primarily affect the northern portion of Los Angeles County, enveloping the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys, along with the Malibu coast, Santa Monica Mountains, Calabasas, the San Gabriel Mountains and the 5 and14 freeway corridors.

Red flag warnings indicating critical fire danger conditions were in place for those areas through 10 p.m. Monday.

“The strongest Santa Ana winds are expected Sunday, when gusts of 35 to 50 mph will be common, except gusts of 50 to 65 mph likely in the Los Angeles County mountains, Santa Susana mountains, western Santa Monicas and wind-prone foothills. Dry and breezy offshore flow conditions will persist into Tuesday, which may extend critical fire weather conditions across portions of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.”

At least two spot fires broke out in L.A. County on Sunday afternoon, one near the 170 Freeway at Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood, and one near the northbound 110 Freeway at Anaheim Street in Wilmington.

Wind-prone coastal and valley areas were expected to experience winds ranging from 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph.

Southern California Edison officials said the utility was reaching out to customers and public safety agencies about the possibility of power shutoffs in which power is cut in areas being battered by heavy winds that could damage electrical lines or equipment and spark wildfires.

According to SCE, roughly 150,240 of the utility’s 5 million customers were being notified that they are within areas that could potentially be impacted by the power cuts.

A list featuring the real-time status of temporary street parking restrictions and addresses affected is at LAFD.org/RedFlag.

In Orange County, high wind warnings were in place through 10 p.m. Monday in the Santa Ana Mountains and foothills and inland areas, with 20 to 30 mph winds anticipated and isolated gusts of up to 70 mph. OC coastal areas will be under a less-severe wind advisory, with winds gusting up to 45 mph.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a windblown dust advisory for the county that went into effect Sunday morning and will last at least until Tuesday morning.

And forecasters also issued a gale warning until 3 p.m. Monday for the inner waters from Point Mugu to San Mateo Point, including Santa Catalina Island. Northeast winds of 15 to 25 knots were predicted, with gusts up to 40 knots and combined seas of 4 to 7 feet when conditions are worst.

Power Shutoffs

According to SCE, roughly 150,240 of the utility’s 5 million customers were being notified that they are within areas that could potentially be impacted by the power cuts.

SCE’s website showed current power shutoffs were in effect for the following customers:

  • Los Angeles County — 420 customers
  • Orange County — 8 customers
  • Riverside County — 163 customers
  • San Bernardino County — 1,893 customers
  • Ventura County  — 529 customers

Shutoffs are being considered for the following:

  • Los Angeles County — 49,297 customers
  • Orange County — 22,789 customers
  • Riverside County — 23,126 customers
  • San Bernardino County —32,057 customers
  • Ventura County — 45,334 customers 

Parking Restrictions

The Red Flag Alert and enforcement of special parking rules began at 8 a.m. Sunday and will remain in effect “until further notice,” according to the LAFD.

A list featuring the real-time status of temporary street parking restrictions and addresses affected is at LAFD.org/RedFlag.

All vehicles parked illegally in posted locations within the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone will be towed by the city, Humphrey said. The LAFD will reevaluate weather conditions Sunday to determine if the alert will be extended.

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews LA

Fire Weather Conditions Expected in Parts of Northern California. PG&E says Power Cuts are Possible

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A fire danger warning was set to take effect in Northern California late Tuesday because of strong winds and low humidity, prompting Pacific Gas & Electric to warn roughly 8,500 customers their power could be shut off in an effort to prevent a wildfire from starting if wires are downed or damaged.

The red flag warnings were set to take effect in much of the Sacramento Valley and in parts of adjacent Lake County, the National Weather Service said Monday. Such warnings come when warm temperatures, low humidity, gusty winds and exceptionally dry fuels are anticipated, which can lead to large wildfires.

The issue of power shutoffs surfaced in Hawaii after the deadly fire that destroyed the Maui community of Lahaina. Maui County claims Hawaiian Electric Company negligently failed to cut power despite high winds and dry conditions. The utility acknowledges its lines started the fire but faults county firefighters for declaring the blaze contained and leaving the scene.

Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves most of Northern California, said potential power shutoffs could start at 3 a.m. Wednesday and could affect up to 8,500 customers, mostly on the west side of the Sacramento Valley. The shutoffs are intended to prevent fires from starting when power lines are downed by winds or struck by falling trees or windblown debris. Such fires have caused extensive destruction and deaths in California.

It would be the utility’s first such shutoff since 2021. PG&E first implemented the shutoffs in 2019, leaving nearly 2 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California without power and drawing fierce criticism.

This time, the utility was able to reduce the impact of possible power cuts after it added more circuit switches to its grid, allowing it to more precisely determine which customers will lose power, said Paul Moreno, a PG&E spokesman.

PG&E also added hundreds of weather stations in areas prone to wildfires and now it has nearly 1,500 units that provide information on when fire conditions are present and when those conditions have passed, he said.

California has so far avoided widespread wildfires this year following an extraordinarily wet winter and cool spring that melted the mountain snowpack slowly. Downpours from recent Tropical Storm Hilary further dampened much of the southern half of the state.

“We were fortunate to have a wet year,” Moreno said.

In California, major fires have been limited to the southeastern desert and the lightly populated far northwest near the Oregon border where lightning ignited many fires this month. The largest group, the Smith River Complex, has scorched more than 115 square miles (298 square kilometers).

Southern California Edison, an electric utility company that serves Southern California, last shut down power in July to five commercial customers in Palmdale, a city north of Los Angeles.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California Insurance Market Rattled by Withdrawal of Major Companies

Two insurance industry giants have pulled back from California’s home insurance marketplace, saying that increasing wildfire risk and soaring construction costs have prompted them to stop writing new policies in the nation’s most populous state.

State Farm announced last week it would stop accepting applications for all business and personal lines of property and casualty insurance, citing inflation, a challenging reinsurance market and “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure.” The decision did not impact personal auto insurance.

“We take seriously our responsibility to manage risk,” State Farm said. “It’s necessary to take these actions now to improve the company’s financial strength.”

Allstate, another insurance powerhouse, announced in November it would pause new homeowners, condo and commercial insurance policies in California to protect current customers.

“The cost to insure new home customers in California is far higher than the price they would pay for policies due to wildfires, higher costs for repairing homes and higher reinsurance premiums,” Allstate said in a statement.

California’s unsettled market aligns with trends across the country in which companies are boosting rates, limiting coverage or pulling out completely from regions susceptible to wildfires and other natural disasters in the era of climate change. Florida and Louisiana have struggled to keep healthy insurance markets following extensive damage from hurricanes. Premiums are rising in Colorado amid wildfire threats, and an Oregon effort to map wildfire risk was rejected last year because of fears it would cause premiums to skyrocket.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. In recent years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive fires in state history.

Some California homeowners already are going without coverage, and a shortage of new policies could make it more difficult to buy a home. A state-run pool that serves as the insurer of last resort for many could face pressure as enrollments surge.

The state pool — the California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plan — provides basic fire insurance coverage for properties in high-risk areas when traditional insurance companies will not. Enrollments have jumped in recent years to 272,846 homes in 2022.

“We just don’t have a stable insurance market,” said state Sen. Bill Dodd, a Democrat from Napa, whose Northern California district has been charred by wildfires. “What’s happening is a lot of people in my district and frankly other districts are … going naked — they have no insurance.”

According to data compiled by the industry-supported Insurance Information Institute, California has more than 1.2 million homes at risk for extreme wildfire, far more than any other state.

“The number of acres burned in California has grown steadily in recent years, as more people are moving into fire-prone areas of the state,” the institute said in a statement on the company departures from California. “More homes in harm’s way — combined with rising costs of repairing or replacing houses either damaged or lost to fire — leads to increased insured losses.”

In Colorado, which has been hit by devastating wildfires, insurance premiums have been rising significantly, and some smaller insurance companies have been pulling back from covering properties. A study commissioned by state lawmakers found that 76% of carriers decreased their exposures in Colorado in 2022, leaving the five largest insurance companies to dominate the market.

Florida has struggled to keep the insurance market healthy since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew flattened Homestead, wiped out some insurance carriers and left many remaining companies fearful to write or renew policies in Florida. Risks for carriers also have been growing as climate change increases the strength of hurricanes and intensity of rainstorms.

Louisiana is in the midst of an insurance crisis, exacerbated by hurricanes Delta, Laura, Zeta and Ida in 2020 and 2021. As claims piled up, companies that wrote homeowners policies in the state went insolvent or left, canceling or refusing to renew existing policies.

In California, the loss of large insurers could create more pressure to loosen consumer-minded policies that have held down rates in the state for years. Voters approved Proposition 103 in 1988, which allows the state insurance commissioner to reject proposed rate increases and order refunds. It has been credited with saving consumers billions of dollars, but the industry says it places constraints on accurate underwriting and pricing risk.

Last year, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara advanced regulations requiring insurers to give discounts to customers if they followed new standards like building fire-resistance roofs and creating defensible space around their homes.

Before their announcements, State Farm and Allstate both had been seeking significant rate increases.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan advocacy group, said State Farm’s decision was unlawful.

“Insurance companies can’t just stop selling insurance to consumers in order to make more money for themselves,” Harvey Rosenfield, the author of Proposition 103 and the founder of the group, said in a statement. “They have to open their books and get the (state) insurance commissioner’s approval.”

Lara’s office didn’t respond to an email request for comment.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Crews Protect Homes as California Fire Burns Near Yosemite

A destructive wildfire near Yosemite National Park burned out of control through tinder-dry forest on Sunday and had grown into one of California’s biggest blazes of the year, forcing thousands of residents to flee remote mountain communities.

Some 2,000 firefighters battled the Oak Fire, along with aircraft and bulldozers, facing tough conditions that includes steep terrain, sweltering temperatures and low humidity, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

“It’s hot out there again today,” Cal Fire spokesperson Natasha Fouts said Sunday. “And the fuel moisture levels are critically low.”

Crews on the ground protected homes as air tankers dropped retardant on 50-foot (15-meter) flames racing along ridgetops east of the tiny community of Jerseydale.

Light winds blew embers ahead into tree branches “and because it’s so dry, it’s easy for the spot fires to get established and that’s what fuels the growth,” Fouts said.

The fire erupted Friday southwest of the park near the town of Midpines in Mariposa County. Officials described “explosive fire behavior” on Saturday as flames made runs through bone-dry vegetation caused by the worst drought in decades.


By Sunday the blaze had consumed more than 22 square miles (56 square km) of forest land, with no containment, Cal Fire said. The cause was under investigation.

Evacuations were in place for over 6,000 people living across a several-mile span of the sparsely populated area in the Sierra Nevada foothills, though a handful of residents defied the orders and stayed behind, said Adrienne Freeman with the U.S. Forest Service.

“We urge people to evacuate when told,” she said. “This fire is moving very fast.”

Lynda Reynolds-Brown and her husband Aubrey awaited news about the fate of their home from an evacuation center at an elementary school. They fled as ash rained down and the fire descended a hill towards their property.

“It just seemed like it was above our house and coming our way really quickly,” Reynolds-Brown told KCRA-TV.

Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for Mariposa County due to the fire’s effects.

Flames destroyed at least 10 residential and commercial structures and damaged five others, Cal Fire said. Assessment teams were moving through mountain towns to check for additional damage, Fouts said.

Numerous roads were closed, including a stretch of State Route 140 that’s one of the main routes into Yosemite.

California has experienced increasingly larger and deadlier wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists have said weather will continue to be more extreme and wildfires more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

How Bad Could Fire Season Get? Emerald Fire Could Be Harbinger For Another Tough Year

The Emerald fire that broke out in the hills west of Laguna Beach on Thursday morning provided a brief scare for residents whose homes were threatened.

Within a few hours, firefighters appeared to be getting the blaze under greater control. But Orange County’s top fire official warned that wildfires burning this quickly near neighborhoods could be a harbinger of a bad fire season for Southern California, and for the entire state.

“If this is a sign of things to come, we’re in for a long year ahead,” said Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy.

The 2021 fire season was historically disastrous for the Western United States.

Last August, the Dixie fire burned up nearly one million acres in Northern California, becoming the second largest fire in state history. At around the same time, Oregon saw one of its largest-ever fires too, with the Bootleg fire destroying around 400,000 acres.

In late December, the Marshall fire near Boulder, Colorado destroyed hundreds of homes in a matter of hours.

By then, storms were drenching much of California and burying some parts of the state in snow, adding to the mountain snow pack. That led to hopes for more wet weather and a healthy snow pack in early 2022. That has not been the case.

After a bone dry January, snow pack levels were nearly 10 percent below normal for much of California, according to the California Department of Water Resources. If the dry trend holds, California could be in for more of the same this year.

“This is going to be a critical next month and a half or so,” said Casey Oswant, a National Weather Service meteorologist in San Diego.

“Depending on how much rain we get, that will determine how dry the fuels are going to be in the summer and fall…Especially in the past couple of years, we have not been getting a lot of rain.”

Oswant said the lack of wet weather, high temperatures and strong winds in 2022 so far are already looking similar to the last few years. Since 2015, what’s supposed to be the greater Los Angeles area’s rainy season each year has instead experienced higher than normal temperatures.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Utility customers will pay $10.5 billion for California wildfire costs

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign legislation Friday to overhaul how the state pays for utility wildfire damage — a complex bill the governor championed and moved swiftly through the California Legislature this week at Wall Street’s urging.

The bill’s passage was a political victory for the governor, but some questioned whether California leaders were just making a down payment for wildfire costs that will skyrocket if more isn’t done to prevent ever-larger blazes.

The administration says the bill will provide investor-owned utilities with at least $21 billion to pay for damage from blazes linked to their equipment beginning this summer. Utility customers will be required to pay $10.5 billion to the so-called wildfire fund through a 15-year extension of an existing charge on monthly bills, one that was originally expected to expire by 2021. …

Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Times

California’s ambitious plan to stop deadly wildfires may not be enough

US-FIRE-WEATHERAs California fire officials roll out an ambitious plan to thin the state’s overgrown forests in an attempt to prevent another year of deadly wildfires, a growing body of research suggests their success may be limited.

The foremost strategy, proposed in a 28-page report to the governor last week, is to clear trees and brush near vulnerable communities. Thirty-five areas, including about a half dozen in the Bay Area, are targeted in the safety blitz.

But while fewer trees can mean less fuel for fires, researchers have found that it can also mean undermining a forest’s natural defenses and increase the fire risk. For example, thinning can let in sunlight that dries out the woodlands or create space for new, less fire-resistant vegetation to emerge. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle