California Officials Focus on Forest Management After Fires - NBC Bay Area
California Wildfires

California Wildfires

Coverage of brush fires across the state

California Officials Focus on Forest Management After Fires

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection released a list of 35 priority fuel-reduction projects it wants to start immediately across the state over roughly 90,000 acres

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    NEWSLETTERS

    RAW: Newsom Talks PG&E, Education in State of State Address

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he'll have a plan within 60 days for dealing with the recent bankruptcy filing by Pacific Gas & Electric after years of devastating wildfires. He also discussed education, addressing the teachers strike in Los Angeles.

    (Published Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019)

    After successive years of devastating wildfires, California's fire agency announced a plan Tuesday that would dramatically increase the removal of dead trees and other forest management efforts with the help of the National Guard.

    The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection released a list of 35 priority fuel-reduction projects it wants to start immediately across the state over roughly 90,000 acres. That's double the acreage the agency aimed to cover in the current fiscal year, CalFire Deputy Chief Scott McLean said.

    The agency is also seeking National Guard assistance to coordinate the work. McLean said it was the first time he could recall turning to the National Guard for help with clearing trees and vegetation.

    "It just goes to show you how committed everybody is," he said.

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    Bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. inched closer to taking responsibility for the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, saying Thursday it is "probable" that one of its transmission lines sparked the blaze last year that killed 86 people and destroyed most of the city of Paradise. Anoushah Rasta reports.

    (Published Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019)

    The deadliest U.S. fire in a century destroyed much of Paradise — a city of 27,000 people in Northern California — in November 2018 and killed 86 people. California also experienced devastating wildfires in 2017, including a blaze that killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,500 structures around the wine country city of Santa Rosa.

    Republican President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized California's Democratic officials for not doing a good enough job managing its forests and has threatened to cut off California's federal disaster funding.

    The 35 projects are based on input from local Calfire units and would reduce wildfire risk to more than 200 communities, according to Calfire. They include removing dead trees, clearing vegetation, and creating fuel breaks, defensible spaces and ingress and egress corridors.

    The projects prioritize communities at high risk from wildfires but also with significant numbers of vulnerable groups such as the elderly or poor. They include work around the city of Redding, which was also devastated by wildfire last year, and in Butte County, where Paradise is located.

    An estimated 15 million acres of forest land in California are in need of thinning or other restoration work, so the 35 projects are just a start, Calfire officials said. The agency wants to establish incident bases with the National Guard close to vulnerable communities to coordinate fuel-reduction projects.

    Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, said many of the recent fires were driven by high winds, so clearing trees and vegetation in forests is not the solution. Calfire should focus more on clearing brush immediately around homes and ensuring their roofs and attics are safe from flying embers, she said.

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    PG&E only inspected the nearly 100-year-old tower suspected of sparking the massive Camp Fire by air in the decade leading up to the disaster, records reviewed by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit show. Jaxon Van Derbeken reports.

    (Published Monday, Feb. 11, 2019)

    "We need to make sure we're doing the things that we know will protect homes," she said.

    Calfire is also calling on officials to identify options for retrofitting homes as part of its recommendations released Tuesday.

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