Issues relating to access to Soda Canyon Road properties and updates on PG&E progress will continue on the Atlas Fire page. Issues regarding near and long term aftermath of the fire, like clearing, insurance and rebuilding (and lawsuits?) will be collected here. Also, perhaps a discussion about what Napa may become or should become after such a catastrophic event.
My guess is that there will be an enormous development rush now. The tourism industry will demand any number of concessions to counter the devastating impacts of the fire. Residents and the County will want to rebuild quickly, and, if the Oakland hills fire is any guide, will want to expand their holdings. Developers may also want to rebuild and flip houses as vineyard estates for owners not wishing to return, or to develop new vineyard estates on properties as yet undeveloped while land values have dipped. The wine industry will want expand vineyard areas newly cleared of woodlands. There will be enormous amounts of recovery and insurance money pouring into the county and that money will find its way not just into rebuilding but in expanding the built environment of the county. In every disaster there is ample opportunity for profiteers. Rural residents, who have been the most vociferous in opposing watershed development and the most impacted by the fires, are now focused on rebuilding their own lives. It is not an appetizing prospect for those concerned about protecting the rural character of Napa County.
[Update 11/18/18: thus far I can't say that my gloom and doom predictions above have come to pass, and, indeed, the County has begun to engage in some navel-gazing here and here in the last few months]
An epic battle will take place in the courts in the next couple of years between PG&E and the thousands of residents affected by the Sonoma and Napa fires of 2017 [and the Camp Fire of 2018!]. Dan Mufson sends along this link to an article about our State Senator, Bill Dodd in action on both sides of the issue. The article and video gives a sense that the Senator knows who he works for.
Dan adds: "Check out the video. At 2:13 our own John Harrington can be seen on the right side of the frame. He went to Sacramento with his family to lobby Dodd, the Governor and others not to let PGE off the hook for liability.
In the first hours of the Oct 8th fire, a fallen tree backed up fleeing traffic on the road, with burning hillsides all around, until a couple of trucks were able to pull the tree enough to allow passage. It could very well have been a major disaster.
Residents know of and accept the dangers of the road as the price of living in such a desirably remote place. Many residents on the road lived through the 1981 fire. The County, however, as we attempted to present in much testimony and many documents during the Planning Commission and BOS Appeal hearings for the Mountain Peak project, has a more substantial responsibility to insure that commercial users of the road are not put in harms way. In that respect the Supervisors, in approving a large tourism facility at the end of the road, with numerous dangers and access constraints, have abrogated that responsibility.
In response to the less-than-significant safeguards in place to notify and protect people in the recent emergency, Napavision2050 questions the wisdom of the county's desire to develop the fire-hazardous Soda Canyon and Atlas Peak roads for public commercial use. Included is a link to Dan Mufson's own story of his loss in the fire and his invitation to others to share their stories:
We live 6 miles out Soda Canyon near the mailboxes. Sometime around 9PM the winds started going crazy; the solar panels were crashing up and down on the roof and I was trying to keep the 3 dogs calm. About 10-10:15 we received a call from a friend on Loma Vista (who later lost his house) saying he was evacuating and we should think about it also. I told him the power was probably going to go out soon and to call me back on my landline once he knew something. (Cell phone doesn't work here without power and WiFi, so I plugged in an old princess phone so we had a line).
And yes, the power did go out and my friend called back about 10:25 telling us to get out! At the same time I could hear a helicopter flying above saying something, but I couldn't understand what. From my window, I could see it circle around the grape pickers out at Stagecoach and in seconds, I could see their headlights speeding down Soda Canyon, so it was easy to determine what the helicopter was saying. I wonder if they spoke Spanish?
I ran around and woke up my 81 year old dad and got my housemate out of bed. We were all out of the house in 3 cars about 5-6 minutes later with 3 dogs in my car. I was first out of our driveway, then my housemate and then my dad.
This is a photo as we started driving down the hill and it looked like the entire road and canyon were in flames!
Our neighbors from above were stopped along the steep part of the road so I pulled up next to them and asked them if they were going down he said no, he was going home.
So, I started down the hill; soon there were flames and embers leaping from both sides of the road. The wind was crazy and carrying burning objects through the air in front of us. We had to drive around a downed tree that was on fire too.
I heard we were the last people to come down the hill that night. Everyone else was told to go back. SODA CANYON ROAD DOES NOT HAVE AN EXIT OR OTHER WAY OUT. A few evacuated from Antica Winery and some from the top of Soda Canyon by helicopter.
By the time we got to the Soda Canyon Store, my dad was not behind us any longer. i was going crazy! I should have driven him, but he insisted on taking his car. After about 20-30 minutes we got a call from him saying he turned back. He spent part of the night at the end of our driveway where he had cell service and the rest of the night at Antica winery, whose gates were opened by a local fireman I believe.
My sister and I came back up the next afternoon to get my dad. It was like a war zone: charred remnants of homes, cars, telephone poles and trees on fire, downed power and phone lines, trees in the road, etc.
Another neighbor, two doors down, slept through the entire thing Sunday night and didn't have a clue anything happened until she got in her car to go to work Monday morning and headed down the road! She sped back home, grabbed her husband and dog and they made the dangerous drive through flames and downed electric wires. No one came to her home and she didn't hear the helicopter.
The friend who called me to tell me about the fire,heard about it from a friend of his on Dry Creek across the valley; he could see flames in our area. My friend called his landlord (also lost their home on Loma Vista) and they called several people who called other people. A GOOD NUMBER OF THE MIDDLE SODA CANYON ROAD RESIDENTS escaped because of this ONE PHONE CALL from someone on Dry Creek! What happened to our Fire Wise "Call em All"? NIXLE? Emergency alert on a cell phone such as when there are flood warnings? We had NOTHING! There should absolutely be some sort of Tsunami warning type of system in remote areas and where there is no exit other than the way in. There USED to be a road through Antica to Atlas Peak, and there was another road over the hill to Silverado Trail. But neither of these exist any longer. We need an exit plan and we need a warning system.
Update 12/4/17Gary Margadant's letter to Supervisors Ryan Gregory and Diane Dillon regarding the removal of redwoods on Mt. Veeder Road:
Ryan and Diane
A huge problem is brewing up here and we need some help from the County Administration to manage the issue and preserve the neighborhood. This subject could get out of hand and result in major problems for PGE and Napa County.
Teams of Tree cutters and arborists from out of state are here to work on the right of way/easements for PG&E power line, and they are increasingly seen as mercenaries who have been designating the Redwoods as hazards to the above ground power lines. They are entering private property and dropping trees without even attempting to speak to the owners of the property. Funny, but the trees of major interest are the Redwoods, the money $$ trees, of high value when hauled in mill lengths off the property. No Oaks, Madrones, Pines and Firs have received such treatment. It is turning into Grand Theft Redwoods. How much is each Redwood worth? $1,000, $2,000, $3,000????
The major headache is the Arborists who have shown up from States that do not have Redwoods in their lexicon. Only California, Oregon, and Nevada have redwoods, so how is an Arborist from outside these states familiar with the FIRE Resistance of the Redwoods. I know that you passed around, with Steve Lederer of Public Works, a criteria list for burned tree evaluation, but the very fact of the Redwood fire resistance and recovery ability does not seem to be considered or paramount in the current decisions being made on the Slopes of Mt Veeder. These wood cutters have $$ signs in their eyes, not the welfare neighborhood and collaboration with residents and property owners. It is simply a rape of our neighborhood.
I will point you two to the Redwood Trees in the City of Napa, especially on Franklin Steet between Pine and Laurel as an example of a neighborhood that has preserved their Redwoods and revier them, protecting them against any attempt by PGE or the City to cut them down where they interfer with the PGE easements. Just have a look at the wires passing through the limbs and branches of the trees. PGE and the Residents have made compromises to keep the trees: PGE has put up insulated wires as they pass through the trees and most of residents have put their Electrical Service connections underground, all to retain the trees in the neighborhood.
Not so on Mt Veeder. Residents have been staying up here, even if PG&E has not recovered power to their homes, staying just to protect the Redwoods and keeping the tree cutters off their's and others property. One resident is in touch with the lawyers who handled the PG&E disaster in San Bruno. Others are experiencing simply high handed logging in the guise of Right of Way protection. Nothing about this is collaborative.
The downed trees are hauled off on flatbed trailers, not logging trucks, the very trailers that transported Excavators to Mt Veeder, which they use to load the large logs. This loading and transport is not completed with logging equipment, so they are not passing any smell test in their efforts to reap the $$ from the Trees. And to add insult to injury, they are using the south end of Mt Veeder to transport their equipment and the recovered logs, all passing over the restricted culvert with a load limit of 12 tons, easily surpassing the load limit for that road section. If that stone culvert collapses and cuts off the south access to Mt Veeder Road, another burden will be placed on the Residents. Steve Lederer knows well about this culvert limits after protests by neighbors when Mayacamas Vineyards transported a 40 ton Tractor, all after the Road Dept gave the hauler permission for access delivery across the culvert: so why the limit and the road signs?? Is this just a Cover Your Ass moment that does not include concern for the Residents?
And Why Now? How come PGE has not tried to cut down these Redwoods in the past 30 years? Why, all of sudden is it imperative to do the cutting now, on trees that have maximum fire resistance and fire resilience and have not been a big bother or danger to the above ground power easements? Other trees are also cut down, Oaks, Madrone, Pine Fir, Laurel but none of these species are being transported out of the area for milling. Most have been cut into small sections and left by the roadside for disposal by local and county residents. Another Smell test.
This situation deserves investigation to make sure the $$ are not clouding the issues of Right of Way rights and resident property rights. You need to document just what is going on. Send some investigators from the DA's office and Sheriff Deputies up there to document the efforts of these tree cutters, PG&E and the Residents.
I do not want this situation to escalate any further. PG&E and their wood cutters are increasingly seen as extremely unwelcome predators. Do something If I was cutting down the trees in your front yards and along the streets as is happening on Mt Veeder, you would not be happy at all and have the same questions I have posed here in.
If assistance from the Napa County is weak and unresponsive, then any attempts by Public Works to manage the trees in their roadway Rights of Way will be imperiled.
The Great Napa Fire of 2017 has changed the landscape of Napa's watersheds. Over 100,000 acres of woodland areas on both sides of the Napa Valley burned in the Napa and Sonoma fires. What impact will that have on the silting of Napa's reservoirs this winter? Will there be an impact from the millions of gallons of fire retardant sprayed on the fires? Will there be enormous pressure to plant vineyards as a way to restore the hillsides? Will the fire encourage or discourage more vineyard estate development? Will the concept of a watershed initiative to protect woodlands be more or less important now that much of the woodlands are gone? Time will tell.
A friend gave me information about this consumer group that has a very detailed web site about California homeowners insurance and policy holders' rights and laws, specifically as it applies to fire losses. If you would like to post it on Soda Canyon Road, it might be helpful for people who are having a less than pleasant experience with their insurance company:
I have been taking photos after the fire and have been putting them up on my photo website here. I will keep adding them as I take more. Some show burned homes, and may be painful for their owners to look at. I will remove any that owners may object to. Contact me here.
The article in the Press Democrat presents a split opinion by residents to have outsiders view the destruction. A resident next to us on Soda Canyon Road calls it a purient interest. I think of it as witnessing (and recording) a significant historical occurrence. I am a bit of a hypocrit, of course. When it involves tourists coming up the road on a daily basis to view our (normal) homes and lifestyles as part of a Napa winery "experience", I become less philosophical.
Other photos on this site taken of the fire and its aftermath are here and Amber Manfree's here.
The County Planning department has produced a draft "Urgency Ordinance" governing the rebuilding of structures destroyed by the October fires in Napa county. There will be a meeting on Nov. 13th, 2017 to discuss the draft ordinance aimed at the building professionals (including those who will be working for homeowners) that will be governed by its conditions. County Planning Manager Vin Smith's email:
I have reserved the Board of Supervisors Chambers for Monday, November 13th at 10:30 to discuss the recommended Urgency Ordinance we are preparing for the Board's consideration. We are working on Draft Language that I have attached to this email for your review. Keep in mind this is a work in progress, but it represents a bulk of the changes we are proposing to accommodate efficient and swift building permit processing for those who have suffered loss as a result of the fires.
I have focused this invite on industry professionals (Civil, Architect, Contractors, Planners, Attorneys) not to exclude but to ensure our dialogue is about the Urgency Ordinance itself, as the ordinance provides recommended process changes to streamline building permit issuance and you are the local experts.
For time planning purposes, I anticipate this meeting taking 90-minutes or less. I hope you can free-up a part of you Monday for this meeting.
For all of us who witnessed the devastation of the North Bay Fires last month, it was kindness from those near and far, friends and strangers, that created beauty in the midst of ugliness and healing in the midst of despair.
KQED News shares this insightful piece written by Carolynn Spezza, who lost her home to the 2015 Valley Fire:
I attended the meeting at the Silverado Country Club on 10/30 and felt it was a worthwhile, with reps from FEMA, Army Corp of Engineers, EPA, Fire, Bill Dodd, and Napa County Planning Department in attendance. It appeared there were close to 300 people at the meeting and I had to wonder how they were all notified. Without the email from Anne, I would not have known at all about the meeting. Thanks Anne!
Reps from each agency made a brief presentation, with staff from these agencies available to answer individual questions afterwards.
If you are considering using the the Government Removal program, you need to fill out the paperwork ASAP. Army Corp of Engineers is lining up private contractors to do the work. Whether or not this program is right for you depends on your personal situation and insurance policy. The head FEMA rep said there was confusion regarding the program and explained how it worked. It made more sense to me after he explained it, so if you need clarification, call and ask questions.
If you are using a private contractor for debris removal and wondering where the hazardous waste, ash, and other materials will go, this wasn't answered. FEMA said they are still working with landfills to figure this out.
Napa County Planning Department has set-up a Special Building Permit Center dedicated to homeowners who want to rebuild. There will be three full-time staff to help with developing the simplest process and fastest building permit process for rebuilders. The center is in the basement of the admin building at 3rd & Coombs. Phone number: 707.299.1350 Vincent Smith of the Planning Department appears to be the one in charge.
Throughout the meeting, all the officials emphasized how supportive and helpful the county and government agencies were going to be regarding rebuilding process. Some of the quotes I heard…"flexible, we will get out the way, we will be your advocate, quick process, simple process, we are here to help you through the process"…etc. David Morrison said "our goal is to move you into your home as quickly as possible" and Bill Dodd offered to "be your advocate" if needed.
EPA is inspecting all homes that were damaged and should be done soon. Debris removal permits will be issued within 24 hours of being filed.
The fire could have possibly damaged home foundations, the concrete and steel. foundations should be tested.
Bob Fenton from FEMA reported that 200 staff members from his department are here to help and said in his presentation that he acknowledges "the need to protect watersheds", which is very encouraging.
After the meeting, AP and his wife Brenda were hosting a wine reception on the deck outside of the ballroom.
I have downloaded and read carefully the Right-of-Entry (ROE) form requested by email@example.com before they will initiate hazardous waste removal. This ROE form does not differentiate between Phase 1 (no-cost hazardous waste removal) and Phase 2 (debris removal). Supervisor Pedrosa circulated the "Hazardous Waste & Debris Removal Fact Sheet, Issued 10/18/17" that states that owners will have two options in Phase 2, either debris removal by the county (Option 1) or by a private contractor (Option 2). However, the ROE appears to give the county an unrestricted right to exercise Option 1 in Phase 2. The ROE under Phase 2, Option 1 seems to give the county virtually full control over what happens to your site, including things like bulldozing retaining walls and foundations of historical buildings, gives them the right to leave behind for you to deal with anything that they choose, and gives them the right to bill you and your insurer for all of their Phase 2 work, with no announced timetable or fees. My reading of the terms is that there is no public subsidy for Phase 2 for owners who have fire insurance, and my claims adjuster stated that charges for debris removal by county-sponsored contractors usually equal or exceed the allowance in your policy for debris removal.
To put it mildly, this legal document does not appear to have been drawn up for the benefit of residents burned out by the fire. I will not sign it, and instead will ask for a ROE document that covers Phase 1 only. I encourage you to read the current ROE carefully before signing.
Napa County Planning and Building Dept is organizing a forum for feedback on Building Permits procedures during the Rebuilding Phase after the NAPA FIRES. Essentially to: how the County can adjust the Napa County processes to best address the needs of the property owners while continuing to protect the health and welfare of the community as a whole. (see below)
If you Cannot Attend, Please forward any feedback on your observations and desires for change in the processes, Directly to Vin Smith: Vincent.Smith@countyofnapa.org .
If you want to forward any of your ideas to me, I will be more than happy to pass them on to Vin and his PBES colleagues.
FUTURE ITEM for the Board of Supervisors (BOS)....my concerns, but they might be yours also...our FEEDBACK on the Emergency Response, Community Notification, Priorities and Coordination during the Fire Storms by Napa County and their Emergency Services. Many thanks to First Responders who risked their lives to save our homes and forest, thanks to them and extraordinary neighbors who stepped up.
This is a Feedback loop that needs to be discussed in a similar forum or as an Agenda Item on the BOS Agenda.
1. Nixle messages missing during the first 24 hours...Attributable to the loss of Cell phone towers in the initial hours, but a missed scenario by the Emergency Coordinators.
2. No backup for 1, including the use of Social Media: Facebook, Next Door, twitter, Text, etc. Missed opportunities in the emergency scenarios and emergency protocols: SM was not used.
3. Land Use Priorities for Access. Residents were on the bottom of the priority list and this must change. Ag operations were allowed in, with permit, during the Mandatory Evacuation to tend to their investments (vineyards, grapes), but home owners were not allowed to enter to check their water sources, tanks and water lines in preparation for a return. Workers who do not live on the mountain were allowed in, but those who's home was their major investment/wealth were not allowed in to attend to their investment. Granted, some residents were allowed in for Animal Welfare, but all were not accorded the same investment privileges as Ag operations. THIS HAS TO CHANGE. There is more $$ invested in homes on the hill than commercial operations, so why the priority disconnect?
4. Residents watched as Bicyclists were allowed into the area yet they were not. (This is an odd one, but there is no reason strangers w/o Local ID, were allowed in for Recreation??
5. The BOS needs to tackle Feedback from Residents as a positive to adjusting their emergency response protocols for future events. The board recognizes 4 major events in the last 4 years: Earthquake, Fire, Rain Storm and....that needed major emergency response.... I suggested Response Drills after the Earthquake, but these suggestions never materialized into any concerted actions by the Board and Response Agencies.
WRITE your supervisor and request a forum for Feedback and Response Protocol changes in light of recent problems/failures. We have to learn from the past to better the future.
Send me your ideas and I will carry them to the BOS..
The fires were a horrific and unprecedented event and we are truly moved by the devastation but more so the unbelievably strong positive community response. I can say that county staff confronted the events to assist in the immediate emergency needs of the community, and quickly went to work to address the community needs during the rebuilding phase which is ongoing. As such, the Building Official and I are hosting a Stakeholders Meeting next Wednesday, November 1, 2017 at 2pm in the Board of Supervisors Board Room (where the public meetings take place) to provide an update on our ideas and efforts to simplify the rebuilding process and to exchange ideas about moving forward. We will give a short presentation and have handouts, as well as website links, for your use in communicating with those who have suffered property loss. We will also have draft concepts or "Scenarios" to present to you on how the County can adjust its processes to best address the needs of the property owners while continuing to protect the health and welfare of the community as a whole. We are on a tight schedule to get ordinance changes to the Board of Supervisors on November 21st, so we hope that you can process the contents of these handouts and provide feedback at this meeting.
Thank you to all who have assisted and supported the county efforts since October 8th. I look forward to working with you on rebuilding our community.
Steve [Chilton] spoke with Kelly Gin of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and in addition to providing online information (brochures also available at their information table @LAC) regarding post fire restoration, her office can do post fire property assessments (free of charge). An assessment would provide information about stabilizing the soil, removing dead material and identifying proper seed mix. The assessment should come in handy for insurance purposes. In addition to information, her agency might also be able to provide grants to agricultural properties impacted by the fire. There may be funding for nonagricultural properties for clean up and rehabilitation. We are hoping to get her out to Soda Canyon this week and if you would like her to visit your property, please call her as soon as possible at:
Kelly Gin-707.252.4189 ext. 3114.
I know we are all focused on survival and just trying to get back to our homes and maintaining some kind of sanity as we address all the problems related to this incident. However, if we do not remain diligent regarding environmental issues, I'm afriad the "powers that be" will try to get back to "business as usual" and sneak through more winery proposals as we just try to get our lives back together. Of particular concern is that the county might put into play "shortcuts" to allegedly help fire victims, which will also help wineries and other ag businesses to shortcut the process and get their proposals approved without proper public notification, vetting, and community input.
Is the Planning Commission is still having meetings? How convient if all the "usual suspects" that show up and voice their opinions are now just trying to figure out how to repair their homes or working with insurance companies to deal with the loss of their burned out home.
What have other counties done regarding planning issues following a major disaster ? Oakland fire…Lake County fire…Santa Rosa...Did they have a moratorium on building/variance/modification permits?
At this point it should be abundantly clear to all that upper Soda Canyon and places like it aren't a really great place for the uninformed, out-of town tourist to be hanging out on a hot, dry, windy day.
Not good place for the tourist, not a good situation for local residents.
Tourists belong on and near the Valley floor where they have ready access to emergency services.
We've been saying this all the while, and it turns out the concerns we raised regarding the issues of access, fire safety and the like were not only 100% valid but painfully accurate.
Already in the news (TV- yesterday?) Jerry Brown has made it so that the "Wine Industry" can get immediate and easily granted variances on re-locating tasting rooms and production facilities that have been affected by fire. There was some other very negative things mentioned which escape me right now. Could this have been championed by Bill Dodd?
Here is something I put together about Milliken Reservoir and the Runoff from the Sill Winery that was destroyed in the fire. The runoff from the winery will make it into Milliken Creek @ 2929 APR, above the intake to the City of Napa Water System. If the rains come before CalRecycle can clean up the mess, then the Napa River Water Quality and Wildlife is certainly going to suffer.
Sill must not be allowed to try and clean up the mess himself unless he has the approval of State Cleanup Officials. So we need to closely follow his activity at the Winery.
The contamination is not limited to destroyed Wineries, but also Ag Buildings, homes, etc. anything that might store toxic materials (even wine that leaks out into the watersheds).
We need to find and document these structures so we can follow the activity of owners, residents and Lead Cleanup Agencies.
DO YOU KNOW of any such structures???? Send me a note (but do NOT reply to all).
I just posted the following thread on Waccobb.net in response to an email about tourism. Please consider joining this discussion. It would be helpful to hear from Napa people and to promote pending events and experiences related to tourism.
Here is a website that can be useful to our Soda Canyon friends who may have fire insurance claims. It is run by a citizens' advocacy group and has insider tips on how to handle a claim. Bill you may want to post it on the website. I will also email it to our constituent groups and Napa Vision 2050 www.unitedpolicyholders.com
I suggest that we either use this page or start a new one related to rebuilding and insurance efforts. We are the family that lost the house on Loma Vista in 2011 and unfortunately are very experienced in the fire insurance claim process, so hopefully this time will be less daunting.
We can all expect that once the road access is granted, we will all be visited by:
1) Looters or spectators
2) Insurance adjusters looking for clients
3) Insurance company representives
We learned a great deal during those two years and it will be invaluable to have a site to share information, problems and recs. Happy to share what we learned and share information as we go through it again; we'll all need a forum (this page or another on Sodacanyon.org) to accomplish this. If anyone has specific questions I can be reached at 415-310-3245.
Good luck to everyone with the early stages of recovery!
It is hard to believe that this tragedy keeps on burning. Our hearts continue to go out to all of you.
Perhaps you may be able to recover some from PG&E?
I don't know if you saw this news but it appears that the cause of the fire may have been downed power lines or blown transformers.
If PG&E was negligent, like they were in the San Bruno gas explosion disaster, all affected may be able to recover - your group may have another cause to promote, this time with attorneys who undoubtedly would take it on on contingency so you don't have to pay them upfront.
I will probably end up in the minority opinion on this but PG&E has a lot more potential hazards to deal with than it humanly possible to control, especially given the unwillingness of rate payers to fund the enormous infrastructure costs to build a fail safe system. Every power line in the state has trees growing around it. Pruning them all or cutting them all down is not an option. And even if they did an earthquake might knock them down. I would like to see all the lines underground, but in our neighborhood you can't find anyone willing to spend several thousand dollars each to make it happen. Even that amount of money probably doesn't come close to the actual cost of under-grounding. I think that PG&E does a good job given the amounts of money we are willing to pay. In certain situations they may be negligent, but not making every line in their territory wind and tree-proofed is not negligence
Be careful about making causal attributions at this stage. PG&E may not be the most responsible player, but not enough information to know if a fire took out power or power malfunction caused fire.
With many fires, there may be common cause, independent, chain reaction, etc. We could have an arsonist(s), which is not a remote possibility.
The fires will have an environmental impact, to be sure. While we are waiting for the forensics, we can start contemplating the larger impact, and the impact on the various initiatives. Saving a watershed that just burned down will take some re-thinking. Saving Skyline park from development may be a different game. We have some thinking and re-strategizing to do.
The preservationist community really needs to begin thinking about the new world order in the county that will come from developers wanting to take advantage of every square inch of newly cleared land and of a county desperate for development fees and growth to the economy to offset the loss of tourism money, and the desire to give any concession to get the tourism industry back on track. The vineyard development industry is also newly empowered. Unfortunately, It's just been proven that the carbon sequestered in forests is much more volatile and less justifiable than that sequestered in vines.
I heard a man who lived on Atlas Peak being interviewed some days ago who said that he experienced a momentary power outage. The power came back and then went out. Immediately thereafter the fires began.
There is no doubt in my mind that at least this particular fire was caused by PG&E failure to maintain power lines, power poles and surrounding trees.
The situation on Diamond Mountain Road where we live is equally dismal. Crooked power poles, sagging powers lines - some not being repaired after repeated requests and hundreds of trees threatening power lines. They need to be removed for obvious safety reasons.
About 6 months ago, a large oak tree branch fell and snapped a power line about 200 feet from the intersection to Hwy 29. We were lucky at that time.
To this day, a Comcast cable has been dragged down to the ground by a falling tree for at least 3 months now but has not severed. It is still in this condition and it is dragging the two anchor PG&E power poles in tension and despite notices, no one has cared to repair it. It is a new disaster waiting to happen.
The PG@E electrical infrastructure in the mountains is that of a 3rd world country.
I am sure when the dust settles, we will find that they are the culprit of at least the Atlas Peak fire.