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Hundreds Missing in Most Deadly and Destructive Wildfire in California History

by Wes, Unicorn Riot
Butte County, CA – Dozens have died and hundreds are missing in the most deadly and destructive wildfire in California’s history. Unicorn Riot is in the evacuation zone documenting the unfolding disaster. The fire started five days ago on Camp Creek Road and has been officially named the ‘Camp Fire’. At just 30% containment, it is continuing to rage near Chico, and Oroville, California.

The isolated mountain town of Paradise, CA, approximately 15 miles from Chico, is now in smoldering ruins, with thousands of homes, businesses and vehicles destroyed. The nearby community of Concow was also similarly destroyed. The current death toll is now at 42, according to Butte County Calfire. The number of lives lost is expected to rise as many of the structures and vehicles burned have yet to be searched.

[Smoke billows from multiple pockets of fire across the region]

Many of the remains discovered were found in cars that were attempting to escape. Because of the high intensity of the fire, many of these remains are, so far, unidentifiable. As a result, anthropologists are being brought in from around the state to assist the local coroners in positively identifying the human remains.

[Vehicles caught in the fire along the evacuation route]

Hundreds of people are still missing, with the Sacramento Bee putting that number as high as 228. However, because of the ongoing confusion, and conflicting reports, the true number of  people missing is still unknown.

[Vehicles caught in the fire along the evacuation route]

As of November 12, a total of 117,000 acres have burned, including over 6,400 homes, and over 250 businesses, according to Calfire. The cause of the fire is still officially under investigation. Some residents believe it may have been started by PG&E power company’s failing electric infrastructure, however that claim is still unverified by local authorities and the investigation is ongoing.

[Aftermath of wildfire which scorched a small town]

The Camp Fire is one of multiple major wildfires still burning throughout the state of California. Weather conditions and high winds continue to cause concern for the over 5,100 firefighters currently combating the Camp Fire.

Unicorn Riot was on the ground this weekend and personally documented both the fire’s destruction in Paradise, as well active fires in the area. Our reporter on scene witnessed several homes burst into flames, large explosions, and huge plumes of black smoke billowing into the air above the structure fires. Air quality in the entire area remain dangerous, with many local residents wearing protective masks and respirators to mitigate the harm of toxic smoke.

[A home is engulfed in flames]

Community volunteers are coordinating ways to help and have organized community mutual aid meetings. Held nightly at Black Bird Cafe, a local bookstore, and info shop, a group of volunteers have been gathering to figure out ways they can work together in helping the effected. Mutual aid organizing included: efforts to distribute respirators, provide pet/livestock evacuation and care, help victims in obtaining lost documents, improvised shelter construction, ride shares out of town, clean up, ash sifting, free Airbnb’s, child care, donation drives, music benefits, creating contact lists, finding overnight parking accommodations and providing various types of medical and wellness services.

Up to the date information was provided by and is available on Butte County Calfire’s website. Continue to follow Unicorn Riot as we will attempt to bring you more from the deadliest fire in California history.

§Video of fires and the aftermath, including overhead drone footage
by Wes, Unicorn Riot
Copy the code below to embed this movie into a web page:
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by ..jj...
Article goes on to say that consumers may pick up the tab for PG&E negligence.
State Senator Jerry Hill is looking into a legislation to break up the utility company.
He said, "They have positioned it that they are too big to fail, I frankly think they're too big to succeed, that's why we need to take a closer look at PG&E. You could take away their license to do business in California as a monopoly."
By Matthias Gafni and Andre Byik
PUBLISHED: November 9, 2018 at 6:52 am | UPDATED: November 9, 2018 at 7:40 pm

PARADISE — Downed PG&E power lines, amid high winds, may have sparked the deadly Camp Fire that has destroyed the town of Paradise and killed at least five people, according to firefighter radio transmissions reviewed by Bay Area News Group.

At about 6:33 a.m. Thursday, firefighters were dispatched to a vegetation fire “under the high tension power lines” across the Feather River from Poe Dam, where Cal Fire officials have pinpointed the fire’s origin on the agency’s incident page, according to hours of radio transmissions reviewed by this news organization. The first fighters arrived there at 6:43 a.m and noted the fire was being buttressed by 35 mph winds.

“We’ve got eyes on the vegetation fire. It’s going to be very difficult to access, Camp Creek Road is nearly inaccessible,” one firefighter told dispatch. “It is on the west side of the river underneath the transmission lines.”

The utility, which has already been criticized and sued in a number of other large and deadly fires across California, had announced beginning Tuesday that it might shut down power to the impacted parts of Butte County amid forecasts of high wind and low humidity. But it never did.
PUBLISHED: November 12, 2018 at 11:50 am | UPDATED: November 14, 2018 at 3:59 pm

PULGA — The day before firefighter radio transmissions revealed a malfunctioning PG&E power line may have triggered the state’s most destructive wildfire, a business owner in this tiny town near the Camp Fire’s origin said she received an email from the utility alerting her that workers had to fix a problem on a nearby power line.

In the email sent Nov. 7, the company said they’d be coming out to work on one of their nearby towers that “were having problems with sparks,” said Betsy Ann Cowley, owner of Pulga, a former abandoned railroad town turned retreat popular with techies.

But on Tuesday, PG&E said that one of its contractors had sent Cowley a notification about upcoming work on a different transmission line than the one that is under scrutiny in connection with the Camp Fire.

The utility said it had been notifying nearby residents of work on a transmission line that had been de-energized and was not operational when the fire started — not the line that it had detected problems with shortly before Thursday’s deadly wildfire.


PG&E already faces billions in potential liability because of the role of its power equipment in other destructive wildfires, including those last year in the Wine Country. The utility could face substantial liability from the Camp Fire if its equipment is deemed to be at fault, but its financial risk has been diminished by a controversial law passed earlier this year that allows the utility to pass the costs of fire damage onto ratepayers under some circumstances.

By John Meyers
Sep 21, 2018

With an eye toward destructive wildfire as California’s most immediate climate emergency, Gov. Jerry Brown took action on Friday to broadly expand state prevention efforts while allowing utility companies to shift some fire-related costs to their customers.

The far-reaching proposal signed by Brown boosts government fire-protection efforts by $1 billion over the next five years, providing funds that could help clear thousands of acres of dense, dry forests and brittle coastal brush. The bill’s combination of cash and regulatory relief mark a major escalation in addressing what has been called the “new normal” of fire danger for the state, far beyond what has been spent on immediate emergency responses.


Negotiations over the details of the 112-page law dominated the state Capitol during the final weeks of the legislative session. The proposal’s fine points emerged just hours before the final vote on Aug. 31. While many lawmakers found parts of the proposal unpalatable, few were willing to be seen as not having done everything they could to protect the lives and property of their constituents.


The new law links together two distinct challenges for changing the trajectory of California’s fire future: controlled growth of fire-prone vegetation and reduced financial exposure for utility companies. In a less combustible year, opposition to either could have doomed the effort. But the topic was hard to ignore during a summer marked by a number of deadly blazes and weeks of wildfire smoke choking the skies above Sacramento.


Under the law signed by Brown, landowners will have new permission and help to reduce overgrowth by cutting down more small and mid-sized trees — a historic change, given that California’s logging limits on privately owned lands date back to 1973.


Downed power lines have sparked devastating fires across the state in previous years. Two of the state’s largest electricity providers — Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric — both face steep costs related to past wildfires. PG&E has yet to finish tallying the damages it must pay from fires in Napa and Sonoma counties last fall.

SB 901 makes two significant changes to determining how much utilities must pay. First, it enhances the wildfire-mitigation plans that companies must file with the California Public Utilities Commission. Utilities will have to provide new details on vegetation removal and electricity shutoff plans. Regulators will have to formally sign off on the wildfire-mitigation plans, ensuring more accountability in the aftermath of a devastating blaze.
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