Causes of California’s worst fires are often ‘undefined’

FILE – In this Aug. 7, 2018, file photo, firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch Fire, a part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, near Ladoga, Calif. While California officials quickly determined an arsonist started the wildfire burning southeast of Los Angeles and that sparks from a vehicle produced the deadly wildfire in the city of Redding, makes for a lot of the worst brands in the past ten years remain a mystery. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

California officials quickly determined an arsonist started last month the huge forest fire southeast of Los Angeles, and that two weeks earlier, sparks from a vehicle, produced a deadly wildfire in the northern part of the state.

But the causes for many of California flares up the worst of the past ten years remain a mystery.

The Associated Press reviewed state data on the 10 largest fires, and 10 of the most destructive in terms of homes and buildings burned for each year dating back to 2008. Lightning is the most common cause, accounting for about a quarter of that hell, followed by incidents related to high-voltage lines.

However, the researchers could not determine a cause for about one-third of the burn. Experts say that each is a missed opportunity to learn something new.

“If we don’t know what the cause of a fire, but we do not know how to prevent them,” said Carrie Bilbao, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center, which examined forest fires in Idaho for 26 years.

Find out the trigger of aids criminal prosecutions and assists in determining the liability. It also helps campaigns to change behavior, such as the avoidance of mowing in the afternoon when the fire threat is great. And it leads to safety accessories, such as sleeves on power lines, which came about when it was determined that falling branches and birds cause sparks when they are on unprotected electrical wires.

It is estimated human activity — untended campfires to sparks from vehicles — causes more than 80 percent of all forest fires in the United States, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

So far in 2018, wildfires have scorched more than 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers) in California. More than 2,000 homes and buildings were destroyed, and at least 11 people to life.

The Mendocino Complex Fire that burned for nearly two months, killing a firefighter and destroying more than 150 homes, is the largest ever recorded in the state of which 720 square miles (1,865 square kilometers), an area more than twice the size of New York City. No cause has been determined yet, nor has one been established for the Ferguson Fire, which prompted the closure of a large part of Yosemite National Park.

The Sacred Fire, southeast of Los Angeles, was quickly determined to be arson. The authorities say that the defendant was motivated by a quarrel with his neighbors in the Cleveland National Forest. The fire prompted evacuation orders for 20,000 people and almost burnt by the community of Lake Elsinore.

Arson was linked as the cause for only five of California’s most destructive or the biggest burn of the last ten years, according to state records, although officials say the actual number is probably much higher. That is because for arson is the cause, there is no other possibility can exist.

So, for example, even if the researchers are of the opinion that an arsonist was responsible for a fire next to a railway line, they abandoned the cause has not been determined because they can not exclude the possibility that a spark from a passing train.

The finding of causes that can lead to preventive measures has become more urgent in the drought-ravaged California. Even as climate change extends the fire season and feeds the record-breaking fires, more homes are built in robust areas where the fire hazard is great.

Three times as much acreage has burned so far this year in California, just like last year, produced the Tubbs Fire, the most destructive recorded in the statement of the history and the Thomas Fire, until this year, was the largest ever.

And the most dangerous months for wildfires California are still to come.

The Carr Fire, the deadliest so far this year with eight fatalities, began in July with a spark from a vehicle. In the cutting wind, the flames exploded in Redding, the largest city in the far North of California. More than 1000 houses were destroyed.

The driver immediately reported from the fire so there was no mystery about how it all began. Such quick confirmation is unusual.

“Try to examine the nature of the fire is almost like trying to investigate a murder — with the exception of most of your evidence has been destroyed, and everything around it is destroyed by fire,” said Lynne Tolmachoff, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and fire protection.

If the lightning maps show no activity in a burn area, the assumption is that was started by the man, and the fire investigators go directly to the spot to cordon him off, and protect evidence.

It is a difficult process, even when the fire is too small.

The researchers look at how the vegetation is flattened to determine where the fire originated, and follow it to the ignition point — usually the coldest place.

But there are challenges, especially if the fire originated along a road or other heavily trafficked area. Crews for fighting fires can inadvertently wipe out key clues, such as carbon particles, of a car backfiring, or pieces of porcelain from an exploded catalyst.

Mobile phone photos and videos from witnesses to help investigators. Drones provide aerial photos of a section of the ignition, showing burn patterns, and strike marks on the cables, which are difficult to see from the ground.

But often it comes down to two possible causes, which results in the cause it is declared unidentified and the case is closed, unless new facts appear. Tolmachoff can’t remember a study to determine whether there is a cause of ever reopening.

Last year, Tubbs and Thomas fire are still under investigation.

Tubbs, in the wine region north of San Francisco, destroyed nearly 5,700 structures, and 22 people killed. Thomas, in Ventura and Santa Barbara county, killed two people and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings. A month later, heavy rain fell on the hills denuded by the fire, unleashing mudslides that killed 21 and left two others missing.

Lawsuits seeking billions in damages to be filed. Ensure that California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., would go bankrupt if it is found on the debt for the Tubbs Fire prompted the Legislature to pass a bill to allow the company to increase bills to pay off lawsuits.

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