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Good Sunday morning (or midday) to you. If you're up early like me and are in Sacramento, you probably notice the orange hue as the sun rises over the smoky sky. For those affected or who have friends or family affected by the numerous fires, a big NOONER hug. This has been a very tough twelve months in the Golden State.
This also goes back to the origin of the moniker "The Golden State." You likely know that "golden" had nothing to do with the mineral, but rather the color of the hills in the fall. I love beautiful golden hills, but I wouldn't mind being called "The Green State" right now.
CARR FIRE (Shasta County): Yesterday, the Carr Fire captured the grim spot of the 17th deadliest California wildfire in recorded history after the 70-year-old woman and her two great-grandchildren were found in the rubble. Reportedly, the house they were found in was not in mandatory evacuation yet, and the great-grandfather was out getting supplies. This was the initial firestorm Thursday night when the fire unexpectedly jumped the wide Sacramento River.
With an estimated 12 people still missing, the number is likely to climb. Before the fire is out, it will likely also be on the list of California's top 20 largest wildfires. Mostly, it appears to be heading toward largely unpopulated areas, although that doesn't lessen the impact of the people that live in those areas. Fortunately, if the trend continues and the focus remains on structure defense, the mass of assets assembled won't be stretched as thin as they have the last few days.
An estimated 80% of Trinity County's 13,000 residents were without power this morning as the fire caused Trinity Dam's power station to shut down. It is estimated that power will be restored this afternoon. Many of the affected residents have already relocated to evacuation centers that have generators available.
Here are the latest numbers, as of 7am:
Again, the structures destroyed/damaged numbers are an estimate and unfortunately likely to be on the low end. Acreage/containment is based on infrared radar, whereas structure information has to be manual assessment. While the information is helpful, it's not nearly as helpful as having crews putting out flames. Additionally, structure damage assessment is not conducted overnight, so these are numbers from last evening.
I've seen criticism on social media that the state isn't doing enough, so I include these numbers. Remember, this is only one of ten state fires. The Mendocino Complex fires are also large and minimally contained and the Napa County fire around Lake Berryessa burned seven homes last night. More are likely to spring up today as malevolent people copycat the alleged Cranston Fire arsonist.
California is literally tapping fire assets from all over the western United States, even as Oregon and Nevada have significant fires.
President Trump signed a declaration of emergency yesterday following a request by Governor Brown. This will provide support for public safety and emergency assistance, but doesn't yet trigger individual financial assistance programs (like low-interest loans through FEMA). Some people saw that as a slight, but I think it's just because of the nature of wildfires.
Most disasters declared for federal assistance occur immediately (earthquake/tornado) or within 24-48 hours (hurricane). However, FEMA can supplement the non-cash assistance currently being provided mostly by the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Even celebrity chef Guy Fieri was at Shasta College yesterday helping with food, as he did during the devastating firestorm in his hometown Santa Rosa last October.
Insurance companies were setting up booths yesterday at Shasta College to begin the claims process, although individual property damage assessments have not been done. Even with FEMA loans available, they can't be processed until after standard insurance claims are processed. So, mark this day, give President Trump a break. He did act quickly on the emergency declaration, even if California hasn't been worthy of a tweet.
CRANSTON FIRE (Riverside County): As of this morning's report, the fire has burned 13,118 acres and is 29% contained. It is reportedly burning Southeast toward unpopulated areas. While the US Forest Service doesn't report on structures, the below Los Angeles Times story states that at least five homes have burned.
In yesterday's Los Angeles Times, the team reports on the years of preparation the mountainous city of Idyllwild has taken to prepare for firestorms such as Cranston.
“Idyllwild was saved by years of pre-planning,” said Reitz, chief of the Idyllwild Fire Protection District. “That includes removal of thousands of dead and dying trees, construction of miles of firebreaks, and evacuation plans” drafted by at least a dozen mountain camps that cater to thousands of young people, town organizations and fire authorities.
“Before we pulled the cord on a formal mandatory evacuation shortly after the Cranston fire began,” he said, “most of the youth camp folks were already off the mountain.”
Following close behind were an estimated 6,000 residents who found themselves on traffic-choked, two-lane roads that wind down the ragged northern flanks of the San Jacinto Mountains, where suburbia meets the wilderness — a classic Southern California landscape that has long lured people to build homes in forests and brushlands despite the threat of wildfires.
FERGUSON FIRE (Yosemite area): The longest running of the current fires is at 53,646 acres and is 30% contained. The US Forest Service doesn't track structure information. This fire has mostly been in wildlands and, while Yosemite Valley is evacuated, the fire has not approached the inhabited parts of the park. Yosemite Valley is still expected to reopen on 4pm on Friday. If you have reservations at the expensive Ahwahnee (screw "The Majestic Yosemite Hotel" name), I would suggest you check on refundability. Also even with the announcement of reopening, "Limited visitor services will be available inside Yosemite Valley, including campgrounds, lodging, and food service operations."
MENDOCINO COMPLEX: (Ranch and River Fires): The most recent large fires that began on Friday have combined and are now at 24,450 acres and only 5% contained. These are outside of Hopland and northeast of Ukiah. Here are the evacuation orders. [Lakeport detail] Reportedly, eight residences have been consumed.
As Sarah Ravani and Evan Sernoffsky report for the Chron, the biggest concern is that the fire marches east into the towns of Upper Lake and Lakeport, both on the north side of the lake. Adjacent to evacuation areas, Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport has begun evacuating patients. I believe it is the only trauma center in Lake County (Level IV), with Santa Rosa being a Level II and San Francisco General a Level I or UC Davis in Sacramento for air transport to a Level I.
If it proceeds through Lakeport, it proceeds toward several tribal casinos and small hotels that are major employers for a region that needs it. (Read up on the history of Clear Lake as a large resort, particularly that of organized labor and the Konokti Resort in its heyday.)
I wrote yesterday about how wildfire prevention and response will be one of he top issues when the Legislature returns August 6 for its 25-day sprint to the end of session, which also means the end of legislative activity working with Governor Jerry Brown. As Dan Walters writes, another big issue will be water, as Brown's hope for an ambitious expansion of the State Water Plan to include one or two tunnels to convey water to circumvent the Bay Delta has also not made much legislative progress.
The biggest supporter of the water tunnel plan is the Metropolitan Water District that serves half of the state's population. Central Valley farmers are mixed--wary of the cost and uncertain of the delivery of the benefits.
Northern California is wary, as is usual when talking about the State Water Project. Led by environmental organizations concerned with the health of the fragile Bay Delta ecosystem. The concern is that, particularly in drought years, the salinity of the Delta will increase from the reduced freshwater flow from the rivers, which would harm existing threatened species (and perhaps add some), and hurt the salmon and migratory bird populations. According to the EPA, "Two-thirds of California's salmon pass through these waters, and at least half of the state's Pacific Flyway migratory water birds rely on the region's wetlands."
Thus, it is not a liberal-conservative issue. While the environmental side is more liberal, they are teamed up with sportsfishermen and groups like Ducks Unlimited, a hunting and preservation group.
On the contrary, Southern California and Central Valley farmers point out that during drought, they are told to take drastic water conservation moves as massive amounts of freshwater flows out into the ocean. NorCal counters that by pointing out Southern California pools and lush lawns, something you don't find in most of San Francisco.
It's very complicated.
However, might there be a deal between fire and water? Northern California has felt the biggest burden of the 2017-2018 wildfire season. So far, the governor's proposal on utility does not help the victims of the most destructive fire--the Tubbs Fire in Napa/Sonoma/Lake counties last October. A sweetener could be added in the environmental stronghold that soothes the concerns of Napa/Sonoma victims who have been the most vocal on utility liabilty.
Would Northern California legislators support tunnel financing in exchange for relief to local governments for the costs of fighting the wildfires and perhaps other longtime mitigations? Additionally, beyond the NorCal Democrats, the NorCal Republicans who might otherwise balk at the cost also have the fishermen and hunters that are concerned about the health of the Bay Delta.
That would result in the biggest political "deal" of the two-year legislative session, beyond that of the gas tax, as it would be bipartisan. But, it's a Hail Mary by either side with the clock at 0:02. But, it could be the path for a last big deal for Governor Brown, who claims to not care about a legacy, but who really doesn't? With folks on both sides skeptical of the fulfillment of vision for high-speed rail, this could be the one.
D-GATE: While watching a football game once, a good friend asked what D-GATE meant? I had to remind that there is a synonym of gate--"Oh...defense!" Well, John Wildermuth writes in the Chron that President Trump plans to pour money into California House races on defense for Republican seats. Not only is it to keep Nancy Pelosi from becoming Speaker, but also to ensure that his friend Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) captures that role.
LA-LA LAND? In the Times, Steve Lopez asks whether Mayor Eric Garcetti is serious about running for President. "If so, and it comes down to Trump or Garcetti, I’m with Garcetti. Then again, if it comes down to Trump or a fig tree, I like figs."
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Jason Levin and Mary McCune!
DEPT OF CORRECTIONS: The Gimme Shelter Podcast I linked to yesterday is a joint project with Matt Levin of the nonprofit CALmatters.
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