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‘Fire Returned’ series | North State heat risks | PG&E Zogg Fire plea

The latest North State and California news on our airwaves for Friday, June 10.

Fire Returned: Neighbors helping neighbors

Using fire to keep safe from fire seems counterintuitive, but it’s a way to better protect communities from future catastrophic wildfires and also keep the environment healthy.

In Butte County it’s estimated that around 18,125 acres should be treated by humans each year with fire or a fire surrogate. According to Wolfy Rougle, conservation project manager for the Butte County Resource Conservation District, that number comes from a data analysis of the average time between fires historically in the county, known as fire return intervals.

“If you're standing somewhere in a Butte County forest, you're probably standing on an acre that rightfully should be burning every five to 15 years,” Rougle said. “We have pretty short fire return intervals here. So we need a lot of fire.”

In response to the county’s need for fire, Rougle has developed a group of volunteers that help Butte County landowners conduct intentional burns on their properties. Known as the Butte Prescribed Burn Association (PBA), the group describes itself as “neighbors helping neighbors put good fire on the ground” and is one of 20 PBAs that have formed in California.

This story is part of NSPR’s 'Fire Returned' series. Read or listen to the full story in today’s Headlines. 

— Sarah Bohannon, NSPR

High temperatures bring regional fire concerns

Hot temperatures this week have increased the risk for possible wildfires in the Sacramento Valley. On Thursday afternoon, the Park Fire prompted evacuations near Bangor in Butte County. Those evacuations have since been lifted, and Cal Fire said no homes were destroyed.

Temperatures are expected to be over 100 degrees across the valley today, further elevating fire weather conditions. Cal Fire-Butte County Public Information Officer Rick Carhart said this means residents should avoid any activity that could spark a fire – like using power tools midday.

“We recommend that if you're going to use powered equipment that you do it before 10 in the morning,” Carhart said. “Don't be out at 2 in the afternoon mowing your lawn or using a weed eater or … any kind of powered equipment like that. We see so many fires started by powered equipment.”

Cal Fire is at peak staffing and is prepared to respond to any fires that break out, Carhart said. Even so, he encouraged Butte County residents to go to the Sheriff Office’s new online evacuation zone map and make sure they know their zone number – as that’s how officials will identify county locations under evacuation.

— Alec Stutson, NSPR

Today’s heat also brings health risks

An excessive heat warning for much of the Sacramento Valley will be in effect from 11 a.m. today to 11 p.m. Saturday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

The risk for heat-related illness will be high across the valley both days. During this time, the NWS encourages people to limit time outdoors, stay hydrated and check on the elderly, kids and pets.

— Sarah Bohannon, NSPR

PG&E pleads not guilty in deadly Zogg Fire

PG&E is once again facing criminal charges in connection with a deadly wildfire in the North State.

PG&E pleaded not guilty Thursday in Shasta County to 31 criminal counts, including four of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 2020 Zogg Fire west of Redding. State investigators determined the fire was sparked by a tree that fell onto a PG&E distribution line.

In 2020, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and one reckless arson count for starting the 2018 Camp Fire. It also agreed earlier this year to pay $55 million to settle criminal allegations in last year's Dixie Fire, and the 2018 Kincade Fire that started in Sonoma County. But Shasta County turned down a Zogg Fire offer. The county’s district attorney said a civil settlement alone would not be sufficient to hold PG&E accountable for its actions.

In a statement to CapRadio, PG&E said it accepts Cal Fire’s finding that a tree falling into its equipment started the fire, but it does not believe there was any criminal activity. The company said it has resolved civil claims with Shasta County and continues to reach settlements with individual victims.

— CapRadio Staff 

Shasta County registrar of voters describes confrontation with election observers

The Shasta County elections office has never been louder or more tense than it was during California’s primary election on Tuesday. Dozens of observers crowded the office for most of the night.

Shasta County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen said observers wanted the room where the ballots were stored to be sealed off. She said this wasn’t done because it would have caused difficulties moving around the office, and the building has magnetic card locks.

“So, that means that anytime somebody enters we know who entered and what time they entered,” Darling Allen said. “In fact, all of the ballots that we had in the building we had stored in secure ballot storage containers of a variety of different kinds.”

She says observers didn’t feel those measures were sufficient. They wanted the room enclosed with single-use tamper evident security tape, which she says her office uses for other purposes.

“It would have effectively cut our operation in half, and it just isn't feasible from a pragmatic standpoint,” Darling Allen said. “So, we declined to do that. And if you see video, you'll see me saying ‘No, I'm not going to do that,’ about 100 times.”

Additionally, about 40 poll workers failed to show up to their various posts on Election Day in Shasta County, and there was confusion among voters due to redistricting and shifting polling places.

— Kelly Frost, NSPR 

Stories from NPR partner stations are edited by NSPR Staff for digital presentation and credited as requested.

In other news

  • COVID positivity rate up to 10.1 percent in Plumas: “Plumas County Public Health is reporting COVID numbers weekly and announced today, June 9, that there have been 32 new cases of COVID reported over the past seven days; 36 were reported on June 2.” —  Plumas News

In case you missed it

Headlines is published every weekday morning at 8:30 a.m. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and NPR One. Theme song Borough is courtesy of Blue Dot Sessions

Sarah has worked at North State Public Radio since 2015 and is currently the station’s Director of Operations. She’s responsible for the sound of the station and works to create the richest public radio experience possible for NSPR listeners.
A graduate of California State University, Chico, Andre Byik is an award-winning journalist who has reported in Northern California since 2012. He joined North State Public Radio in 2020, following roles at the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review.
Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.