California Gov. Gavin Newsom Insists, “I Have No Patience For Climate Change Deniers” Amid Largest Fire Season In Recent Memory

California Governor Gavin Newsom
California Governor Gavin Newsom State of California via YouTube

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that, as of this time last year, 118,000 acres had been burned by wildfires. So far in 2020, the state has seen 2.3 million acres burned.

“We’re just entering into fire season this year,” said the governor, and this is already “the largest fire season we’ve had in recent recorded history.” He then made a more forceful point.

“Extreme fire events that we believe are climate-induced,” said the governor, require stronger commitments from state, local and federal governments.

When challenged on the cause of the fires, Newsom ticked off a list of extraordinary climate-related factors coming together this year including, “unprecedented temperatures, a heat dome, 14,000 lightning strikes over a 24-hour period and 150 million-plus dead trees related to a multi-year drought.”

He added: “I have no patience for climate-change deniers. It’s inconsistent with the reality on the ground, the facts.”

Locally, the Bobcat Fire near Azusa has grown to more than 8,000 acres and remains at 0 percent containment.

The Forest Service estimates that the fire — which broke out at midday Sunday near the Cogswell Dam and West Fork Day Use area — will not be fully contained until Oct. 15.

Fire officials put some Monrovia residents on notice that they might be ordered to evacuate if the fire spreads south.

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Evacuations already were ordered for residents and Angeles National Forest visitors from Big Santa Anita Canyon, Mount Wilson, San Gabriel Canyon and Monrovia Canyon.

Officials also said Tuesday that the full closure of the Angeles National Forest — announced Monday along with those of several other national forests in California due to ongoing fire danger across the state — will be in effect until September 14.

Two other fires in Southern California are also at 10 percent containment or less: the Valley Fire near San Diego and the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino. Both are at about 16,000 acres burned.

After mentioning the record temperatures seen in Los Angeles over the weekend, Newsom stressed the impact on energy infrastructure.

“All these things are connected,” he said. “Obviously, these weather events have put a lot of pressure on our electrical system. We have put historic pressure on our grid.”

That pressure might increase again as the National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for Ventura and Los Angeles counties for Tuesday and Wednesday. The NWS alert says early-season Santa Ana winds will create “critical fire danger” in many areas.

“In the next 24 hours, we may see wind gusts up to 50 mph,” warned the governor.

The strongest winds in Southern California are expected Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, with gusts between 35 and 55 mph.

Newsom said SCE was indicating that six counties might be impacted, power-wise, by Public Safety Power Shutoffs, which are implemented to help prevent wildfires from sparking. Two of the state’s most deadly wildfires — the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire — are thought to have been started by power lines downed by high winds.

Meanwhile, thousands of Southern California Edison and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers already were without power on Tuesday, and electricity for some was not expected to be restored until Wednesday.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 9,700 DWP customers without power, down from 23,000 at 9 p.m. Monday and more than 45,000 at 1 p.m. Monday, following the record-breaking heat wave that hit Los Angeles over Labor Day weekend.

“As I speak, there continues to be … those who are without power, and that is something that this department sincerely regrets,” DWP Board of Water and Power Commission President Cynthia McClain-Hill said during the commission’s meeting Tuesday. “We had crews that were out, as I understand it, doing 16-hour shifts. … Every single resource that this department has and every resource that we could beg, borrow or steal was dedicated toward addressing this crisis.”

The estimated time of total restoration of services is 48 hours from the time an outage began, DWP spokeswoman Dawn Cottrell said. Customers who have been without power the longest were receiving top priority.

“We are doing everything we can to get everyone dealt with, both the large outages and the small outages,” DWP General Manager and Chief Engineer Marty Adams said. “We hope that we will make significant progress today and get everyone back in power as quickly as we can.”

Adams said many of the issues related to power restoration involve the need for a power line repair or a transformer that needs to be replaced.

The DWP was requesting mutual aid from nearby utilities in order to help with the high number of small outages.

“Restoring neighborhood outages affecting groups of five to 20 homes takes our crews much longer than larger circuit level or partial circuit outages where a single crew may be able to restore power to 500 to 1000-plus customers in the same amount of time,” according to a statement from the utility on Monday.

“In contrast, neighborhood outages typically take a single crew four to six hours to restore power to a much smaller group of customers.”

The statement added that DWP crews `”have been working around the clock on 16-hour shifts since Saturday and will continue until every last customer is restored. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we respond to one of the worst heat storms ever to hit our city.”

SCE, meanwhile, was making progress on restoring power to thousands of customers. By about 8 a.m. Tuesday, SCE had reduced the number of customers affected in Los Angeles County to 9,800 and in Orange County to 2,500.

With red flag fire conditions in the area, however, SCE warned that more than 66,000 of its customers could be subjected to outages. Of those, more than 8,500 are in Los Angeles County and nearly 6,500 are in Orange County.

The DWP urged people to set air conditioners to 78-82 degrees and “skip laundry and heavy appliance use.”

Those experiencing a power outage were urged to report it at or by calling 800-DIAL-DWP (800-342-5397) and using the automated system.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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