Power company under pressure to explain actions before California wildfire

Power electricSome victims of California’s worst-ever wildfire are asking why the state’s largest utility didn’t shut off power in areas that were at high risk. The death toll from the Camp Fire is up to 77, and that number is likely to rise.

Nearly 1,000 other people are unaccounted for. In 11 days, the fire has destroyed more than 10,000 homes north of Sacramento, the state’s capital.

Pacific Gas & Electric said two of its power lines failed in areas where the fire broke out a short time before the first flames were reported. It highlighted one failure the day the fire began but then waited more than a week to report the second until more information was available.

PG&E said the fire forecast did not meet the criteria for a “public safety power shutoff.” The cause of the fire is still under investigation. …

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Rushed construction cost high-speed rail $600 million and delays mount

High speed rail constructionCalifornia’s High Speed Rail Authority is still paying for a costly decision five years ago to begin construction in the Central Valley without securing land and before it had completed key plans, according to a report published on Thursday by State Auditor Elaine Howle.

Howle’s office estimated that the rushed construction contributed to $600 million in cost overruns just for segments in the Central Valley. They may require as much as $1.6 billion more.

The auditor wrote that the project’s finances could worsen if it fails to accelerate its progress. It may have to repay as much as $3.5 billion to the federal government if it does not complete its Central Valley legs by 2022.

“The authority’s spending to date and future projections suggest that the risk of such additional cost increases is high,” Howle wrote. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Jerry Brown picks a new California Supreme Court justice

CA Supreme CourtGov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday nominated his senior adviser for judicial appointments to a seat on the California Supreme Court that has been vacant for more than a year.

Joshua Groban, 45, of Los Angeles, served as the legal counsel for Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and oversaw the appointment of approximately 600 state judges over the past two terms, according to a release from Brown’s office.

“Josh Groban has vast knowledge of the law and sound and practical judgment,” Brown said in a statement. “He’ll be a strong addition to California’s highest court.”

Former Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar retired in August 2017, giving Brown a fourth pick on the seven-member court and an opportunity to shape its direction for years to come. This will be the first time in more than three decades that a majority of the court is comprised of Democratic appointments. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Camp Fire: Death toll of 42 expected to rise as fire grows to 125,000 acres

A home burns as the Camp fire tears through Paradise, California on November 8, 2018. - More than 18,000 acres have been scorched in a matter of hours burning with it a hospital, a gas station and dozens of homes. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Ernie Foss had been bed bound for more than a decade. His family provided him care at his Paradise home, where he struggled with an unusual condition that caused swelling over his entire body.

So when the relentless Camp Fire tore through his neighborhood on Edgewood Lane on Thursday, he didn’t have a way out.

Still, Foss’ stepson and caregiver, Andrew Burt, made every effort to get Foss up and into a wheelchair as a fast-moving wall of fire wiped out the town.

They almost made it.

Investigators found Foss’ body outside his home and next to his stepson’s burned-out van, Foss’ daughter, Angela Loo said. Burt remains missing.

“This is happening for all these people — It’s just unimaginable,” Loo said in a telephone interview from Oregon. “For our whole family, it’s been devastating. We’re in shock.”

As the number of dead continues to climb in the days after the fearsome blaze, a tragic picture of those who perished has begun to emerge. Like Foss, who was 63, many of the victims and missing people are seniors. Some had fixed incomes and like Foss, lived with mobility challenges or more serious disabilities.

The death toll hit 42 on Monday, with more than 200 people still unaccounted for in the fire that struck Thursday morning. As of Tuesday morning, it had burned 7,746 structures and continued to threaten another 15,500 structures, on its way to chewing through 125,000 acres. The fire was 30 percent contained. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

State Senator Looking at Breaking Up Utilities Following Potential Ties to Deadly Fires

VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: A home is destroyed by brush fire as Santa Ana winds help propel the flames to move quickly through the landscape on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

State Sen. Jerry Hill tells KQED that he is looking into legislation that would break up the state’s investor-owned utilities or make them public following reports that Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison equipment may have been connected to the Camp and Woolsey fires burning at either end of the state.

“I’m very concerned about what we’ve learned so far regarding the fires of this year,” Hill said, referring to reports filed by PG&E and Edison to state regulators about incidents at their facilities that occurred around the same time that these deadly and destructive fires began.

On Thursday, PG&E told the California Public Utilities Commission that there was an outage on its 115-kilovolt Caribou-Palermo line at 6:15 a.m. Thursday. Cal Fire says the blaze started at 6:29 a.m.

It’s not clear from the report whether the damage occurred before or after the fire began, and a company spokesman did not address that question. But the location identified in the report appears to be very close to the spot where firefighters first encountered the blaze. …

Click here to read the full article from KQED

Rouda defeats Rohrabacher in Southern California

FILE - In this July 17, 2007 file photo, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Judiciary hearing on the prosecution of Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos, two former Border Patrol agents imprisoned for shooting a drug smuggler in the backside as he sprinted toward Mexico. Rohrabacher's suggestion Friday, June 10, 2011, during a trip to Baghdad, that Iraq repay the United States for the money it has spent in the country has stirred anger, with an Iraqi lawmaker ridiculing the idea as "stupid" and others saying Iraqis should be compensated for the hardships they've endured. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Democrat Harley Rouda on Saturday claimed victory in the race for California’s 48th Congressional District, unseating 15-term incumbent Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in one of the most anticipated House contests of the 2018 election cycle.

Rouda’s victory is sure to energize Democrats, who’ve galvanized to flip several House seats in the traditionally heavily Republican enclave of Orange County in Southern California since 2016.

His win adds further padding to Democrats’ majority in the chamber after the party picked up 30 seats on Election Day, and it brings to a close the nearly three-decade tenure of the pro-Russia representative often referred to by critics as “Putin’s favorite congressman.”

Though ballots are still being counted, Saturday’s tally showed Rouda with 52 percent of the vote and about 8,500 more votes than Rohrabacher, according to the Associated Press. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico

Death toll in California wildfires climbs to 25

FireThe remains of 14 more victims were found in the ashes of a massive Northern California wildfire, bringing the total number of deaths from blazes raging across the state to at least 25, officials said Saturday.

Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea said the 14 bodies were recovered in the Camp Fire, thought to be the most destructive wildfire in state history. Nine deaths had previously been reported in that fire.

Two bodies also were found in the burn zone of the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, officials said.

“I know that members of our community who are missing loved ones are anxious, and I know that the news of us recovering bodies has to be disconcerting,” Honea said. “I will tell you that we are doing everything that we possibly can to identify those remains and make contact with the next of kin.”

“My heart goes out to those people. I will tell you that this weighs heavy on all of us,” he said. …

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It Will Be A While Until All Votes Are Counted

vote ballotsWhile some elections offices say all their precincts have reported, workers aren’t close to counting all of the ballots.

That’s because a precinct is counted as reporting after all ballots received are submitted to the county elections office, not after those ballots have been tabulated.

Janna Haynes, spokeswoman for the Sacramento County Voter Registration and Elections Department, said the results that were released at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning make up more than one-third of the ballots that the county has received.

“We have 185,000 and some change that have been tabulated, calculated and results released,” Haynes said. “We have already partially processed another 175,000 ballots. And there’s probably another 150,000 sitting here that haven’t even been counted yet.”

And then there are the ballots that were mailed in. The county will conduct a final pickup of those ballots on Friday and should have the voter turnout numbers by Monday. …

Click here to read the full article from Capital Public Radio

Thousand Oaks shooting leaves 13 people dead, including gunman

thousand oaks shootingA former U.S. Marine machine gunner who may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder burst into a Thousand Oaks bar packed with college students late Wednesday night, tossed a smoke bomb into the crowd and opened fire, authorities said.

Eleven people were killed, in addition to a sheriff’s sergeant responding to the scene who was gunned down by the assailant minutes later.

The Borderline Bar and Grill was hosting line-dancing lessons for college students as young as 18 on Wednesday night. Crowds of young people, including parties for two women celebrating their 21st birthdays, were drinking and dancing when the crack of gunfire echoed through the cavernous room about 11:20 p.m.

Terrified patrons scrambled for cover as bullets flew. Some crouched behind pool tables and in bathroom stalls, fumbling with phones as they tried to call and text their loved ones. Others used barstools to break second-story windows in an attempt to jump to safety. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

5 toss-up California races could help determine which party wins House control

There are five critical toss-up House races in California, and as the election results map unfolds through the night, there is every chance that those races could be the ones that finally decide the balance of power in the House.

The five are all currently Republican-held, generally speaking in more conservative parts of California – one in the state’s Central Valley and four either entirely or partly in Orange County. But all of the five districts voted for Hillary Clinton over President Trump in the 2016 election, and that’s giving Democrats hope that they can flip all five.

Among the Republican incumbents most at risk is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, looking for his 16th term, taking a hardline stance on immigration and getting a strong endorsement Monday from President Trump who tweeted, “Dana Rohrabacher has been a great Congressman for his District and for the people of Cal. He works hard and is respected by all – he produces! Dems are desperate to replace Dana by spending vast sums to elect a super liberal who is weak on Crime and bad for our Military & Vets!”

The Democrat to whom the president was referring is Harley Rouda, a real-estate investor who previously called for President Trump’s impeachment and accuses Rohrabacher of being a Trump ally out of touch with voters, saying, “We don’t need any more extremists in Congress like Dana Rohrabacher. We need moderates like myself.”

Click here to read the full article from Fox News