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Exclusive: Californian Gives USA Really the Inside Scoop on the State's Massive Wildfires
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Exclusive: Californian Gives USA Really the Inside Scoop on the State's Massive Wildfires

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CALIFORNIA — August 15, 2018

A massive fire in California has killed yet another fireman... it is the biggest fire the state has seen in years.

In late July and August, wildfires devastated an area north of San Francisco, destroying more than 100 homes and injuring 2 others firefighters. In addition, in total, at least 56 people were killed as a result of the fast-spreading blazes.

Authorities have attempted to find the cause of the fires, but the region’s utilities giant, PG&E Corp., already sees a culprit at work — climate change. The latest natural phenomenon has all but confirmed their view.

“Climate change is no longer coming, it’s here,” Geisha Williams, a chief executive officer of PG&E, said. “And we are living with it every day.”

Scientists tend to agree with this assessment. But California’s State investigators have tied PG&E equipment, such as trees hitting power lines, to some of the blazes in October that in total destroyed nearly 9,000 structures and killed 44 people.

Now the company can face damage liabilities totaling as much as $17 billion, unless Williams can convince California lawmakers that the problem is, in fact, a climate change.

She also argues that because of the increasing frequency of fires, utilities shouldn’t be held responsible each time a tree branch falls on a power line during a storm if it followed all safety rules.  Instead, she accused California authorities of not preventing the spread of the fires with measures such as trimming trees and brush around the lines.

If this is the case, insurance companies or government agencies should pick up the tab on the damages.

“No one is suggesting the utilities should get a free pass if they were negligent,” Williams said. But the current legal policy of unlimited, strict-liability has the potential to financially cripple companies, she added.

"PG&E blames climate change while climate change believers blame PG&E. I guess the right thing to do is shut it down. Turn off the gas and electricity because it's killing the planet. Scuttle the generators, destroy the pipelines and plug the wells. Everyone can live in mud huts and eat berries. Back to nature, it'll be great!" a commentator named Archie exclaimed.

They're both, seemingly, right, but only superficially. Poor management of Western forestlands started in the late 60s. It's gotten progressively worse over the decades.

And this isn't about private companies, as Williams suggested. California authorities have signed off on dozens of agencies that are responsible for individual actions such as thinning, access roads, fire breaks and controlled burns that while technically still possible to manage fires, the system has become almost unmanagable. The "Air resources board" has to approve each controlled burn.

So let's start over.

Location: Highway CA-20 at MP 39, Old Lake County Highway, Blue Lake, 8 mi NE of Ukiah (Ranch Fire); Old River Road, 6 miles north of Hopland (River Fire).

Exclusive: Californian Gives USA Really the Inside Scoop on the State's Massive Wildfires

California’s largest wildfire in state history encompasses both the Ranch Fire and the River Fire. The death of a firefighter, who's name has not yet been released, was reported Monday night. Today, fire crews are focused on protecting the communities of Lake Pillsbury and Stonyford and bringing the fire back into the Mendocino National Forest.

Then, Location: Hwy 299 and Carr Powerhouse Rd, Whiskeytown.

Exclusive: Californian Gives USA Really the Inside Scoop on the State's Massive Wildfires

Dense timber, dry vegetation and terrain driven winds have challenged firefighting efforts. Firefighters continued to expand containment lines throughout the evening and in less active areas of the fire. Mandatory evacuations remain for Whiskeytown in Shasta County and Trinity Dam at Trinity Dam Blvd. in Trinity County. Visit this page for the most up to date orders. Currently there is no estimated dates for full containment of this fire.

And then, Location: Holy Jim/Trabuco Canyon.

Exclusive: Californian Gives USA Really the Inside Scoop on the State's Massive Wildfires

Thousands of homes are threatened by this fire, but only approximately 3,000 remain evacuated compared to 20,000 at the height of the fires. Evacuations for El Cariso Village and Rancho Capistrano have been lifted with the exception of the Mystic Oaks community near Long Canyon Road. Highway 74; the Ortega Highway has also re-opened.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which is responsible for fire protection in State Responsibility Areas of California totaling 31 million acres, the Mendocino Complex Fire has destroyed 265 structures and is threatening at least 1,025 more.

The cause of the fires is still under investigation, according to Cal Fire.

These are the main locations where fires have occurred and continue to occur. It should be noted the methods the state is employing in attempt to contain the fire. In addition, it is not a secret that California authorities figured out a way to utilize cheap prison labor in order to combat the fires.

More than 3,000 felon volunteer firefighters are performing the hard and dangerous labor, according to Cal Fire. They’re clearing brush and digging lines for the Ferguson, Carr and Mendocino Complex fires, which have torched a combined 577,000 acres of California land in another historic season.

But what's more interesting is that they are paid an average of $2 per day and $1 per hour when they’re fighting an active fire. Officials say it’s a coveted position among low-level offenders, male and female.

“It’s not something that they’re forced to do,” said Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff. “With a lot of the guys we’ve spoken to, they feel like they’re giving back to the state, helping in that way,” she said.

It's hard to believe that ex-cons would get to the point of potentially being burned alive for $2 a day. But officials say that want to take the risk. This doesn't explain the low wages, nor the quality of the work the untrained inmates are capable of.

Former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said that this work “tantamount to slave labor.”

“At this point, they’re being paid $1 an hour for fighting these ferocious fires — that’s outrageous,” she said, adding that the inmates deserve a reasonable wage for risking their lives.

Officials have failed to provide appropriate social protection or medical care for the former prisoners, and the prisoners are not even able to obtain emergency medical technician licenses. Most of them will later return to urban areas and many want to work for their local departments, but the state requires that all applicants get an EMT certification which closes off the possibility of such work for most former offenders. The law severely restricts ex-prisoners in obtaining such licensees or postions.

The state budget includes $26.6 million to create a firefighter training and certification program for 80 ex-cons annually. Well, that's one problem solved—but as of now, no one has thought of how to provide them with insurance or medical care in case of accidental injury or death.

One inmate firefighter died during a training hike in April, as of the of 2017 there had been five inmate fatalities since the program began in the 1940s. Three others firefighters, two of them former prisoners, were killed in the recent fire.

This concerns stopping fires and putting them out, but lets return to the subject of how these fires emerge in the first place.

In California, there are pumping stations and there are Water Fix tunnels to ensure the quality and availability of water.

The state administration has adhered to a plan to build the tunnel for many years, creating it as a replacement effort for the aging water supply network in California.

“Without an update to our water infrastructure, the environment, and the state’s economy are at risk,” warned WaterFix, they then added, “We face the serious potential for disruption to our water supplies causing job loss, higher food and water prices, and significant species decline” without intervention.

The plan all along has been for a pair of mammoth north-to-south water tunnels, but on Wednesday, Department of Water Resources (DWR) Director Karla Nemeth sent a memo to California water districts announcing that the project will be “implemented in stages”:

A first stage includes two intakes with a total capacity of 6,000 cubic feet per second (CFS), one tunnel, one intermediate forebay, and one pumping station. If funding for all elements of the currently-proposed WaterFix is not available when construction begins, stage two would begin once additional funding commitments are made from supporting water agencies.

DWR hasn’t taken enough districts into the plan to cover the entire $17 billion tab, but it does believe it has enough back up to afford the $10.7 billion cost of just one tunnel as of right now.

However, suddenly, California authorities decided to dismiss many employees of Water Fix, its budget was cut in half, although it was budgeted more than 500 billion in 2017 alone. Respectively, the same was allotted for the current year. At the same time, a major habitat restoration program was dropped. The construction footprint was reduced, and now, instead of a $17-billion, two-tunnel project, the state is planning to move ahead with one tunnel that will cost $10.7 billion.

As for the habitat restoration program, it regards indirect wildlife benefits, restoring natural communities, returning the tides, species recovery, restored economics, and traditions, fisheries recovery, etc.

But what can their representatives say about the mass felling of the southern and Central Valley in California which occurred this spring, as reported by USA Really's local sources?

"Then, as a result, it they introduced different measures for the population and farmers, although there is both water and funds for the projects," commented a the California resident, who wished to remain incognito. "We are offered 50 gallons per day per person. This is about 180 liters. Now try to measure the volume of the drain tank and bath. And people still need Laundry."

The urban and agricultural water districts that are supposed to pay for the multibillion-dollar project have only committed to enough funding for one water tunnel that would extend 35 miles under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The changes are likely to add more delays to WaterFix. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and other agencies that approved funding for the two-tunnel plan have to decide if a scaled-back version will deliver enough water to maintain the project's appeal.

"Metropolitan recognizes that a staged approach to California WaterFix reflects the project's economic realities at this time," Metropolitan general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said in a statement. "Metropolitan continues to explore pathways that align cost and benefits and will work with our partners on a financing agreement. But the final decision regarding participation in the staged project will ultimately be made by our board of directors."

The Department of Water Resources said it would take until October to complete a supplemental environmental review of the modified plans.

In a memo to water contractors, state officials said the ultimate scope of WaterFix depended on the participation of local agencies — construction could begin on a second tunnel if additional funding materialized. "Being prepared and having the option of a staged implementation of WaterFix is prudent, fiscally responsible and meets the needs of the public water agencies funding the project," wrote DWR Director Karla Nemeth.

As for the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), as a supplier of water to the majority of the state’s populace and a representative of the “California WaterFix” or Twin Tunnels project, residents say that "there is no part of the government in this state more arrogant than the MWD."

This MWD is certainly acting the part as it pushes the project as a major accomplishment of Gov. Jerry Brown. He said that the tunnels project would produce much more water than now comes from the same rivers; it will be steadier and more reliable.

But environmentalists, led by the group Restore the Delta, see it not as a fix, but a problem that could deprive the Delta and its fish of much of the fresh water they now receive.

After substantial lobbying by Brown, the MWD’s governing board, without a public vote this summer, committed millions of its customers to pay a large share of the project’s costs. About the only recourse customers might have would be voting out some of the city council members and county supervisors who make up that board. This is highly unlikely, so added water charges for millions of customers are pretty much assured.

It turns out that the projects are primarily beneficial to officials. Money for these projects is stolen by authorities from people's taxes. No one is actually solving the water crisis, and the authorities only pretend to react by creating huge projects worth billions of dollars. Water from government pipes is drained into the delta. There is simply nothing with which to extinguish fires. Mass cutting, and pollution under the auspices of the habitat restoration program leads to drought, and then those actually responsible blame climate change.

Author: USA Really