The ongoing impact from the deadliest wildfire in California history

California
In this August 2018 file photo, firefighters were battling the Mendocino Complex Fire. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

For 17 days, the worst wildfire in California history blazed through everything it met: bushes, trees, cars, homes and yes, sadly even people. On November 8, 2018, a wildfire was caused by a utility company PG&E, which started in Butte County in northern California. The fire finally burned out and came under the control of the authorities on November 25. In such a short time, it managed to kill 85 people, destroyed 18,804 structures and buildings and burnt through 153,336 acres of beautiful countryside.

The natural disaster was caused by another fire from high-voltage power lines right next to the Poe Dam. The wires were part of the hydroelectric network which PG&E owns. Immense wildfires during 2017 had made everybody in California wary of the dry and very hot conditions in the northern part of the state. However, this fire was far worse than those that came before it, as it amounted to the greatest loss of life. As this was a manmade fire, loved ones of those that perished in the fire, are trying to find answers as to why or how this could have happened and prevented.

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Collateral damage in multiple ways

The loved ones may not want or care to know about the overall damages to the state of California, but to truly understand the scale of the damage, you need to. The total cost of the fire is $16.5 billion and this may be set to rise. California’s known to have some of the best agricultural land as well as scenic beauty. The produce grown in California is used by restaurants and cafes in the state itself. It’s a form of self-perpetuating revenue which has been one of the key points as to why California is the best place to make wine, grow organic vegetables and also make cheese from the dairy cows. However, the toll of the fires from 2017 and 2018 are going to be felt for many years to come. It may be the case that restaurants and general fruit and vegetables consumers may need to pay higher prices if enough cannot be grown from within the state.

However, the scenic beauty of the state is also a key driver for the tourism industry in California. As you may expect, since there have been two years of wildfires, tourism has taken a big hit. Cancellations ranging in the 10-11% were seen just in the first half of 2018. Since the Camp Fire was in the latter part of the same year, we are yet to truly know the impact this will have in 2019. On top of this, it appears Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom isn’t taking serious questions regarding the local government’s involvement or blame to be had for the slow reactions. A hit to the landscape, the economy and political trust has made this fire shine a light on a series of failings.

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Who’s to blame?

Retribution for the families must be had, and since this was a wildfire, the blame lies with two groups. The company that started this fire has to answer for their negligence and the local government must explain why after the 2017 wildfires, the response was not as good as it should have been. PG&E is now filing for bankruptcy which should not be a surprise to anyone. The company that started all this must be held accountable, so it’s predictable they would do this as they will need to pay the families a heavy price. Yet, for those involved, the complicated task of showing themselves to be eligible for damages and restitution is what they will encounter first. PG&E has sent out multiple forms for the affected to fill in and send back. These are the ‘notice of the deadline for filing fire-related proof of claim’ forms as well as the ‘proof of claim’ standard with personal injuries.

The trouble is if these forms are incorrectly filled in the person who they are addressed to might not get anything at all. At the very least they might severely limit the amount they should be owed. But using a legal team to help you understand the PG&E Bankruptcy case and what could be owed to you, will show you how to properly fill the forms in for yourself. As power lines in a heavily wooded or natural setting, must follow strict regulations, and proper regular maintenance must be done, liability is clearly on the company’s shoulders. It’s pretty much an open and shut case. Or is it? Those that are affected might want to see whether or not the Governor or local government could have done something to give ample warning to those in the path of the fire.

The lasting damage of the worst wildfire in California's history

Wildfires for three years in a row?

California is incredibly complex in its wildlife and nature. There are green hills full of trees, bushes, grass, moss and leaves. However, towards the southern border, there are deserts, sand dunes and very hot empty plains. It’s, therefore, a recipe for more wildfires. It’s hot, yet it’s also packed with woods that are liable to get hotter and hotter as the swells from South America travel upward. According to the NIFC, there have been fewer fires this year. Around the middle of 2018, there were around 35,957 large fires that raged nationwide. This destroyed around 3,554,036 acres of land all across the country. By the same time this year, 1.2 million fewer acres of land have been destroyed. A total of 23,378 large fires have been recorded making it far less than the year before. Overall, there have been fewer fires but this is due to the weather. The weather is more humid and there has been slightly more rainfall thus far. 

In California, the DFFP has stated that local authorities fought off 310 incidents such as large fires and wildfires. As of this year so far, only 87 have been seen and dealt with. That’s less than one-third of what was seen all throughout the year before. This doesn’t mean that for this year, it doesn’t seem like there will be a major fire like the ones we saw in 2018/19. However, it’s very important to keep up with these kinds of statistics for residents who do live in these areas where wildfires are common. It’s clear to see that residents should not rely on the local government or the current Governor to give them fair warning or even bring the fires under control quickly. So many buildings have been destroyed in the past 2 years. If you’re a business owner, it’s wise to set up different channels of importing and working with different businesses all across the country to get the produce you need. 

Could this event have been avoided? Of course. Multiple things could have been done such PG&E taking more care of their power lines in a heavily wooded area. They could have learned from the previous wildfires and made sure even if there was a fire started by their own wires, that it would not so easily spread. The local authorities could have also made sure any kind of company that uses the landscape for whatever reason, it abiding by proper precaution laws. But in the end, it must be noted that the Governor has not stepped up and given the families clarity of what happened. For the time being, it’s every Californian’s responsibility to make sure they are keeping themselves up to date with the possibility of fires reaching their homes by visiting the DFFP and NIFC websites.

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