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Wine Country Wildfires incinerate California’s lofty air pollution goals

Wine Country Wildfires incinerate California’s lofty air pollution goals

“It’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better.”

http://on.rgj.com/2wJ2Z5c

Remember when I recently reported that California was poised to establish rules prohibiting the sale of diesel- and gasoline-fueled vehicles all in the name of reducing carbon emissions?

The Wine Country Wildfires have incinerated this year’s goals for such emissions. It appears that the air pollution from the state’s many infernos have produced as much pollution in 2 days than the entire output of its cars during an entire year!

In just the past two days, fires in California’s wine country are thought to have produced as much small particulate matter as all the vehicles in the state produce in a year.

“It’s a lot,” said Sean Raffuse, an air-quality analyst at the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory at University of California in Davis.

Although the early estimates are rough, Raffuse said the fires in the wine country have probably produced about 10,000 tons of PM 2.5, an air pollutant that’s the main cause of haze in the United States.

By way of comparison, it takes the approximately 35 million on-road vehicles in California a year to generate a similar amount of PM 2.5, Raffuse said.

I have long chronicled the struggles of California businesses to comply with and operate profitably under the onerous regulations of the California Air Resources Board. Sensible regulations are wonderful, but the wildfires demonstrate how impractical it is to eliminate the emission of carbon dioxide and other carbon-based molecules to infinitesimal levels.

Furthermore, the ash and smoke have spread to other states…so, technically, California is the now biggest air polluter in the region (unless the Yellowstone Supervolcano erupts soon).

Air quality data from the Environmental Protection Agency showed a large plume of dense smoke stretching from the central California coast, across the northwest corner of Nevada and into southern Oregon and Idaho on Wednesday.

Air quality forecasts in Reno, San Francisco and Sacramento predicted varying degrees of unhealthy air throughout northern California and Nevada.

Some Californians may end up enjoying the smoke a bit more than others.

Deadly wildfires in Northern California are burning up marijuana farms in the so-called Emerald Triangle.

Blazes have destroyed a number of farms in Mendocino County right before legal recreational sales begin in California.

Cannabis business owners who lose their crops have little reprieve.

“Nobody right now has insurance,” said Nikki Lastreto, secretary of the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association. “They might have insurance on their house, but not on their crop.”

It turns out that the state’s citizens do face consequences for violating federal rules. Marijuana growers can’t obtain business insurance because federal law prohibits marijuana, so financial institutions can’t support their operations.

This is the deadliest spate of wildfires in California’s history since records have been kept. So far, 31 people have died and at least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed. Officials are bracing for an expansion of the fires, because Northern California is expecting wind gusts up to 45 mph, with nearly non-existent humidity.

“It’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better,” state fire Chief Ken Pimlott said Wednesday.

The 22 fires spanned more than 265 square miles, many of them completely out of control. Modern, strategic attacks that have kept destruction and death tolls low in recent years just haven’t worked against its ferocity.

Prayers are going out to everyone impacted by these blazes.

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Comments

Without diesel or gasoline fueled vehicles, how could CA ever fight a fire like this?

I can’t help but wonder if these fires were intentionally set. In all eight isolated locations.

Very odd.

There still is no official agreement on what caused our Oakland Hills Fire in ’91.

..

    rabidfox in reply to heyjoojoo. | October 13, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    I thought the same thing until I’d read about the high winds ya’ll have out there can mess up the high power electrical lines and cause sparks. Given the tinder your governor won’t let you folks get rid of, a spark is all that it would take to get these fires going.

    amatuerwrangler in reply to heyjoojoo. | October 14, 2017 at 3:45 am

    The smart money is on the small fire started by some repair work on Saturday which the fire department put out. They were wrong in that assessment as winds early Sunday rekindled it… and the rest is history.

Years ago a classic t-shirt came out after a bad year of fire, rain, mud slides and earthquakes… it read “California… THE State of Emergency”.

Some of the fires have to be set. It is just that the greenies need to let the land be cleared of burden of too much fuel.

Easy fix. Gov. Brown just needs to ban wildfires.

It’s too early to determine cause while the fires are still raging, but given that these fires started around the same time in the early AM in conjunction with a major wind storm, the prevailing speculation is that most or all were started by power lines falling due to the high winds and igniting the fires, exacerbated by the unusually high volume of combustible ground growth – a consequence of last winter’s very high rainfall and a summer drought.

This is one reason why PG&E stock prices have taken a recent hit, as fears mount that the company may face liability regarding its power lines.

Of course, some fires may have been set by arson, but for all the fires to be arson, given the large number of fires, the geographic spread, and the simultaneity, it would have required an extensive and well-executed conspiracy, which by Occam’s Razor is far more improbable than a weather explanation (especially as no group has claimed responsibility so far).

    heyjoojoo in reply to civil truth. | October 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    There’s no time limit to speculate on what caused the fire. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make reasonable guesses. I suppose, you can allow time for actual fire investigators. Duh…

    But a good number of people of insightful people can see that there’s a good chance that these multiple fires were intentionally set.

    heyjoojoo in reply to civil truth. | October 13, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Setting wildfires do not require much “well-executed conspiracy”. That’s hilarious. Were you ever a teenager?
    I was. It’s quite easy to set a wildfire, particularly on a windy day. Toss a road flare into a secluded field or hillside; let the wind take care of the rest. It’s an easy way to bring about terror in a mountain community. You could have 3-5 people in several locations do this with ease.

    These fires were intentionally set – plain and simple.

      Tom Servo in reply to heyjoojoo. | October 14, 2017 at 10:23 am

      It doesn’t really matter how they were set – if the land had been managed responsibly and the fuel burden had been kept relatively clear (which good land management would have done, and which was blocked by the State) then none of these fires would have gotten very far, no matter how they started.

      The case for arson also assumes that PG&E was competent and had built its power lines to the highest standards – and were not just the technical equivalent of dental floss hanging off rotten logs.

        amatuerwrangler in reply to Tom Servo. | October 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm

        Those of us who have dueled with PG&E over replacement of dilapidated utility poles in rural CA, know that establishing their competence (let alone willingness) in keeping their distribution network in tip-top shape will be a Herculean task.

Simply, the State of California should sue somebody or something … perhaps, the State of California

The California legislature should pass a law requiring all wildfires to be carbon neutral.

…but, but, but…all that smoke is organic, sustainable, and locally-grown!

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