MENDOCINO CO., 6/25/19 — Cal Fire will be conducting a controlled burn at Lake Mendocino from 6 to 9 pm on Thursday, June 27. The burn will take place at Coyote Dam, and smoke may be visible throughout the Ukiah area and Redwood Valley.
The agency will be coordinating with the Army Corps of Engineers to reduce brush and vegetation from around the dam, which reduces fire risk and makes maintenance and inspections easier. Cal Fire typically conducts a controlled burn in this area at least once a year.
UPDATE 2:15 p.m. -- As the fire continues to burn, a substantial number of fire resources and personnel have been devoted to it, and a substantial amount of water as well. Requests appear to have been made to increase water pressure, and firefighers have communicated to both Ukiah and the Millview Water District, that they are using a large amount of water.
Some of our readers on the scene have also noted that the smoke is quite bad in the area, and photos should a thick black smoke coming off the buildings.
UPDATE 2:00 p.m. -- The fire is still burning, giving off a black smoke, though firefighters are on the scene attacking it both on the ground and with ladder trucks from above.
Here is a post from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office with some pretty detailed photos of the building:
6/25/19 -- A structure has caught fire at the Motel 6 on the north end of Ukiah, on State Street, and multiple fire agencies are responding. The fire seems to have started in an outbuilding or maintenance building, not in the main building, and as of 1:20 p.m. it appeared that the fire was still burning, though it is unclear if was burning the main building.
The building was evacuated, though there are some indications that one person may have been treated for smoke inhalation.
The hotel is often referred to as "the old Discovery Inn," and only became a Motel 6 in recent years. It also appears that the roads are still open, but that traffic has been affected.
MENDOCINO Co., 6/24/19 — Would you rather be fishing, but didn't buy a license? Have you been meaning to teach your youngest friend how to fish? Every year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) sets two free fishing days, to let people interested in angling try their hand without paying for a license. This year, the first free fishing day is July 6, timed for the 4th of July holiday weekend.
If you're interested in buying a license, you can purchase one online — an annual resident sport fishing license is $49.99, and a one-day one is $16.20. If you're trying to decide, you might want to go fishing for free on July 6!
Here's the full announcement from CDFW:
Mark your calendars for the first of two 2019 Free Fishing Days in California, when anyone can try their hand at angling – no fishing license required. If you would like to fish the rest of the year, you can purchase a license online through CDFW’s website. “Free Fishing Day is a great opportunity for seasoned anglers to introduce friends and neighbors to their love of the sport,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham. A basic annual resident sport fishing license in California currently costs $49.94, while a one-day sport fishing license costs $16.20. CDFW offers two Free Fishing Days each year – usually around the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend – when it’s legal to fish without either an annual or one-day license. This year, the first of the two Free Fishing Days falls on the Saturday of Independence Day weekend. The second will be on Saturday, Aug. 31. All fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect. Every angler must have an appropriate report card if they are fishing for steelhead or sturgeon anywhere in the state, or salmon in the Smith and Klamath-Trinity river systems. Anglers can review the sport fishing regulations online (www.wildlife.ca.gov/regulations) or use CDFW’s mobile web site to view freshwater limits and regulations specific to a body of water (https://map.dfg.ca.gov/sportfishingregs/). Please note: CDFW has recently been made aware of customer complaints that third party websites are offering California fishing licenses for sale at greatly inflated prices. We urge customers not to provide credit card numbers, social security numbers or any other personal information to these sites. The CDFW website, License and Revenue Branch locations and CDFW license agents are the only state-authorized sources for California fishing licenses.
6/24/19 -- The Cal Fire Mendocino Unit has suspended debris burning in areas of Mendocino County that are in the state responsibility area. Other areas of the county are on a fire department by department basis, and some departments have already suspended burning.
Cal Fire has some exemptions to the suspension, with a special permit, outlined here, "The department may issue restricted temporary burning permits if there is an essential reason due to public health and safety. Agriculture, land management, fire training, and other industrial-type burning may proceed if a CAL FIRE official inspects the burn site and issues a special permit."
Here are more details in a full press release from Cal Fire:
MENDOCINO Co., 6/22/19 — As many Northern California residents have heard, PG&E is planning to shut off power in anticipation of fire weather, around the region, and these shutoffs may include portions of Mendocino County. The shutoffs will last anywhere from a few hours to five days, depending on the conditions, and residents of fire-prone (such as ours) should be prepare.
Representatives of PG&E have been giving presentations at local city council meetings, including one in Ukiah on June 19, which also included a discussion by the Ukiah City Council about that city’s plans for a shutdown (watch the full video below). PG&E representatives will give an additional presentation about the potential shutdowns at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on July 9 and hold a community meeting about wildfire safety in Willits on July 19.
Prior to determining what areas will be shutdown, PG&E will assess a number of factors, and plan to give local governments, community agencies, and residents at least 48 hours warning when possible. These factors include “Red Flag warnings,” which are issued during high temperature, high wind, and low humidity weather events when the potential for fire is high. Residents of these areas who are signed up for notifications will receive a warning when the shutdown is planned. The utility has already implemented one such power shutdown event earlier this month in parts of Napa, Solano, and in the Sierra Foothills which lasted less than a day. However, shutdowns could last for up to five days, depending on the weather predictions, since PG&E waits for the conditions to change, then begins inspecting their lines and equipment before turning the power back on, which may take more time in this terrain.
In this article, we’ve put together details from the recent presentation along with a list of resources for people preparing for the shutdowns. Although some outages may only last a few hours, the remote nature of much of Mendocino County means that power restoration could take a while, which could be true in any other type of emergency, so we recommend preparing now. We’ve also included video from the PG&E presentation to the Ukiah City Council on June 19 featuring PGE's Alison Talbott, government specialist, and Dave Hotchkiss, public safety specialist.
Here at the Mendocino Voice, we’re making plans to coordinate with other local media outlets, including the community radio stations, as well as purchasing backup power equipment so we can make sure we can get the news out to you as reliably as possible — although communications systems may be impacted. If you’d like to support our efforts, you can check out or reporting equipment wishlist or become a member here.
PG&E has been found legally responsible for a number of wildfires over the last several years, and recently entered into a settlement with Mendocino County and eight other cities and counties regarding their role in those fires. However, PG&E representatives have emphasized that in anticipation of fire weather events, PG&E is now planning to shut down power prior to the arrival of wildfires, to minimize the risk of fires starting due to downed lines or faulty equipment. However, that means that a number of amenities — including refrigeration, cell service, internet access, ATMs, and gas pumps, as well as home medical equipment and more — may not be up and running during the entire shutdown.
PG&E has undertaken an accelerated inspection and repair schedule this spring in anticipation of the upcoming wildfire season, which also includes system “hardening,” which means replacing wooden poles with metal ones and covering lines with additional protection. This inspection and repair effort has uncovered over 1200 "critical threats" in PG&E’s equipment, according to an announcement from the company this week. Some parts of Mendocino County have seen recent short shutoffs recently due to this repair effort.
The utility company is also implementing a number of new programs, including wildfire spotting cameras in remote locations, installing the capacity for remote shutdowns on specific lines, and a pilot program that could allow for power to be routed to important community centers during a shutdown. So far, about 40 of a planned 600 cameras have been installed, primarily on ridges, and so far none have been installed in Mendocino County. Representatives also noted that the remote shutoff capacity is more useful during a storm than during a wildfire, at which point one would not want to send additional power to damaged equipment.
Homeowners should ensure that they’ve cleared adequate defensible space around their homes, of which Cal Fire has a set of recommendations. PG&E staff noted that some of their clearing will include the use of glyphosate, a main ingredient in Roundup, while making sure the areas around their equipment is clear. If you are a private property owner and would like to request no glyphosate be used on your property, call 800-PGE-5000 or work directly with vegetation management staff. Residents are also encouraged to report any damaged lines, poles, or equipment to PG&E — although several attendees at the Ukiah council meeting questioned why their reports of damaged poles or branches in lines, made more than a year ago, had not yet been responded to.
The City of Ukiah will be holding a community preparedness meeting on August 8. County and city staff emphasized that people should attend such trainings, read through the resources on local websites, and connect with their local fire safe councils and neighborhood groups to coordinate activities like checking on elderly neighbors.
Scope of the shutdown
There have already been several planned shutdowns during red flag warnings, and PG&E will decide on a shutdown based on a combination of different factors. Factors to trigger a shutdown include: low humidity, under 20%, forecasted sustained winds above 25 mph, wind gusts in excess of 40 mph, conditions of dry fuel, and on the ground observation, which can come from PG&E employees and contracted gas service to verify current local conditions. PG&E's Dave Hotchkiss noted that different districts across California will use different qualifications of when to call a “red flag warning” in that area. Much of Mendocino County is in what has been deemed either a “Tier 2” or “Tier 3” fire-risk area. Hotchkiss said that last year the utility was only focused on 3 tier areas, and power lines 60kW and below, however this year shutdowns may include everything from 60kW to 500kW transmission lines, which would shut down larger portions of the grid. This could mean that if high powered transmission lines in multiple parts of the state are shut down simultaneously, larger portions of the grid will go offline at once.
Hotchkiss pointed out that there are transmission lines that power Mendocino County that pass through both Tier 2 and 3 fire-risk areas, and that similar weather patterns could affect mutliple transmission lines at the same time. However, if there are other transmission lines, PG&E will attempt to keep power running to different communities if at all possible.
Shutdown and emergency notifications:
PG&E will be notifying customers who have signed up for notifications about planned shutdowns, beginning with 911 centers, and would let customers know 48 hours in advance when possible. The company will then notify people again 24 hours in advance, then prior to the shutdown, then continue to notify customers during the outage, and when power was anticipated to be re-installed. A few attendees in Ukiah questioned how they would receive alerts if cellular communications weren’t operational.
City of Ukiah utilities customers should sign up for emergency alerts with the City of Ukiah, because although the utilities are connected to the PG&E grid, people using Ukiah utilities will not be notified by PG&E. Reverse 911 can be implemented by the Mendocino Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies, but this will only go out to all landlines — people wishing to be notified by cell need to sign up to receive these alerts.
Power restoration may take some time, since certified staff and contractors will inspect all the lines and equipment first, whether aerially, by vehicle, or manually, to ensure there are no damages, especially after high wind events. This may be especially true for smaller lines in more remote areas, Hotchkiss emphasized.
Communications and emergency response
Conmunications are likely to be impacted during a power shutdown as cell towers may only be equipped with backup power for around six to eight hours, although some towers, such as the one on Laughlin Ridge, may be equipped with a back-up generator. Residents should prepare for back-up ways to power their cell phone, as well as for cell service to be impacted. This may also include internet service. The City of Ukiah and county staff are coordinating with local community stakeholders, such as North Coast Opportunities, to establish a local call center to help with questions and assist residents.
The county and local municipalities are planning to have fuel and generators on hand to support back-up power for emergency responders and dispatch, operations at the airport, phones and radios, and will be coordinating with the local ham radio certified emergency network.. However, local agencies acknowledged that there is not currently adequate staffing for dispatchers, law enforcement, and local firefighters, particularly if there are multiple emergency events during a shutdown, or if neighboring agencies can not provide mutual aid. A number of county employees as well as City of Ukiah staff will be required to assist during these emergencies, but it is anticipated that a number of employees may not be able to to central locations depending on the circumstances. City employees will assist with setting up a call center, providing briefings on the steps of the Ukiah Community Center, providing traffic controls, and more. The city is also making arrangements for services with other community agencies such as the Mendocino Transit Authority, which could be able to transport people to cooling shelters.
PG&E customers who have electric medical devices powered as a medical baseline customer if they meet specific criteria. This program includes those customers in a specific database, provides discounts on electric bills, and will ensure that PG&E will contact you during a shutdown, and continue to contact by phone, door knocking, or additional methods until they receive a response, called a “positive contact.” In general, it is recommended that everyone have a back up supply of important medications in case of an emergency, as pharmacies may require electricity to power their computer systems and registers.
City and county are working with local hospitals, oxygen distributors, and dialysis companies to identify strategies for assisting people using home medical devices. During the Wednesday meeting, one employee of a dialysis company noted that the initial plan to move people to nearby medical centers may be challenging if widespread areas were out of power simultaneously. City and county officials are working to coordinate with these companies, and if is possible to power a cooling stationg, may be able to assist residents with refueling oxygen tanks.
Water, Sewage, Food, Fuel, and Solar
Cities around the county are preparing generators for their water and sewage systems, so officials anticipate municipal systems in Ukiah will remain working. The city may also be able to tie-in to adjacent water systems if necessary. More details about the specifics of the city's backup generator power and plans to expand emergency power generation can be found in the video.
People with wells who use electric pumps for water should look into back up options, and everyone should plan to store water as part of their general emergency plans.
The utility of solar caused some debate during the meetings, as only solar power systems will be useful during a shutdown. People with solar that is grid-tied without backup battery will not be able to use their solar power. However, those who's panels are off-grid with a battery should have power. City officials were not aware of any existing code which would prohibit someone running an extension cord from a solar battery, only one forbidden providing power from the Ukiah's electric utility to a non-customer.
Ukiah Mayor Mo Mulheren encouraged any residents purchasing a generator to make sure they follow all the necessary safety precautions recommended by the manufacturer. City officials were also unsure as to whether there were regulations around how much fuel could be stored in a residence, and planned to research the issue.
Some major grocery stores and other stores have back up generators, but it is unclear how they will operate during a shutdown, and electronic credit cards and readers may not be operations. In addition, gas pumps will likely not be working. Residents are encouraged to keep cash on hand, purchase shelf stable food, and keep their gas tanks full as part of their emergency planning.
City officials noted on Wednesday that since a power shutdown is not considered an emergency, there is unlikely to be state or federal funds like FEMA available to reimburse losses during those times. This will impact the city and county, which will need to spend funds of emergency preparations, and a loss of revenue for the utilities district — as ratepayers will not be charged during that time. City officials estimated $150,000 in costs per shutdown, which does not include revenue losses.
There were also clearly be an impact on local businesses, who may not be able to operate, and people who can’t work, or require daycare which is closed, etc. ATM services and credit cards services may not be operational, and so residents should put aside cash, as some businesses will not take checks.
MENDOCINO Co, 6/23/19 — The East Fire, which began nearly a week ago after lightning strikes in the Yolla Bolly wilderness, is now estimated at 378 acres, up from 325 on Saturday, with five percent containment -- the first containment data released in the last several days. The Haynes Fire, which began similarly, is now at 99% containment and is 23 acres in size. Here's our previous coverage of the two fires.
A containment area of 1,200 acres has been established for the East Fire, within which the East Fire is being managed as it grows southward, and USFS managers have said they plan to use the fire to help clear overgrown fuels and snags remaining from the 2008 Yellow Fire in the same area. According to the USFS's incident page, the current strategy is "reinforcing the northern boundary of the confinement area, taking the fire to the Eel River."
120 personnel are on the scene, down from 145 on Saturday, with firefighters and supplies primarily brought in by helicopter due the the remote wilderness location of the fires. Crews will remain at the Haynes Fire to insure that that fire does not become more active now that nearly full containment has been established.
Here's the most recent map provided by the USFS of the two incidents:
#EastFire Map of the current perimeter for the East and Haynes fires.
In a press release Saturday, the management strategy was described as such: Incident Commander Trainee Terry Nickerson commented after Friday’s helicopter flight, “We observed low to moderate activity on the fire which is helping reduce snags and debris in the wilderness in a natural way. We feel this is a great opportunity to manage this incident, at this time and in this location to improve forest health and reduce exposure and risk to fire personnel.” Nickerson added, “The fire is burning exactly as we want it to.”
WILLOWS, Calif. — June 23, 2019— Friday’s infrared flight mapped the East Fire in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness at 378 acres. The East Fire is five percent contained. The Haynes Fire is 99 percent contained at 23 acres. The fires started June 17 approximately 23 miles northeast of Covelo in Trinity County.
On the East Fire, crews plan to reinforce the confinement area between East Ridge, Buck Ridge and Wrights Ridge as the fire continues to spread to the south. The confinement area totals about 1,200 acres in size. On the Haynes Fire, crews plan to extinguish any remaining smoldering vegetation near the containment line.
There are 120 personnel working on the two fires including smokejumpers, Hotshot crews, wildland fire modules, EMTs, helicopters and support personnel. Some of these support personnel are managing the logistics involved with keeping the crews well fed and supplied deep in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness. Every day, logistics personnel pick up and transport supplies, pack containers, prepare materials and food for delivery and importantly, arrange for all of the trash and empty containers to be hauled out of the wilderness. Fire crews cannot operate efficiently on an incident without this critical logistical support.
The weather for Sunday will be clear with 6 to 11 mph northeast winds shifting to the northwest in the afternoon and temperatures in the mid to high-70s. There is a cooling trend forecast for early next week.
WILLITS, 6/22/19 — A earthquake measuring about 5.6, according to the United State Geological Survey, struck a few miles southwest of Petrolia at 8:53 p.m. tonight, and was felt by readers as far south as Ukiah and Lakeport. The quake was measured at 9.5 km in depth. There is no tsunami warning forecasted due to this quake, according to the National Weather Service in Eureka.
The quake was preceded by a 3.3 quake in roughly the same area about 30 minutes prior.
You can submit your report to the USGS "Did you feel it?" page, which tracks the felt intensity of earthquakes. Over 190 responses had been submitted at the time of publication.
MENDOCINO Co., 6/22/19 — A vegetation fire has broken out in the vicinity of Williams Ranch Road, south of Willits, and fire crews are along the scene, and an aerial response with between three or four CalFire helicopters is underway. The fire was first reported around 2:20 p.m., and was initially reported at around half an acre, with a slow rate of spread and is being called the Williams IC.
Reports from sources nearby indicate that the helicopters are dropping retardant on the neighboring hills. There is a full wildland response underway.
This article is based on developing information and will updated as more info becomes available.
UPDATE 6:40 p.m. — The fire in Redwood Valley is out, but crews will remain on scene for the next hour to clean up and monitor the area.
MENDOCINO Co., 6/21/19 — A commercial structure fire in Hopland was reported a few minutes ago, near the intersection with U.S. Route 101 and SR-175, called the "Cellars IC." Cal Fire along with Hopland Fire and an engine from Ukiah are on their way to the scene.
Another structure fire in Redwood Valley has largely been brought under control, located in the vicinity of the 101 and West Road. The Cal Fire helicopter was called off not long after the fire was reported.
Firefighters are responding to both incidents. Traffic may be impacted in both areas.
This article is based on developing information and will be updated as more information becomes available.
MENDOCINO Co., 6/17/19 — Have you ever been waiting at the bus stop, staring at the schedule, wondering if you've already missed your ride? Well, thanks to a cool new app from the Mendocino Transit Authority, you don't have to wonder any more! The Route Shout app shows real-time data from MTA buses as they travel different routes, so once you download it, you won't need to try to peer down the road, call the operator, or make a mad dash running to your stop again.
The app uses GPS to identify the exact location of buses, and will also help you locate the nearest bus stop once you download it onto any mobile phone, making it a convenient service for both daily riders and those that only catch the bus occasionally.
Here's the steps to finding your arrival time, fro, the MTA.
Here's more information from the MTA:
MTA Boosts Bus Convenience for Customers New Route Shout App Gives Real-Time Bus Arrival Info
Ukiah Mayor Mo Mulheren, who also serves on the board of directors of Mendocino Transit Authority (MTA), pumped a fist recently as she watched the MTA bus pull up to her Standley Street, Ukiah, stop at the same moment her iPhone said it would.
“It worked, here’s the bus!” she exclaimed before greeting bus driver James Criss.
Mulheren was testing MTA’s new GPS-enabled mobile technology, called Route Shout. The app gives anyone with a modern mobile phone access to real-time bus locations and schedules, including when exactly the bus will be arriving at any given stop.
Called Route Shout 2.0, the application can be downloaded for free to a mobile phone and used to find the nearest MTA bus stop, bus routes and schedules, and real-time bus arrival times. MTA expects the improved convenience to attract new riders to its Mendocino County bus service and enhance the experience for regular customers.
“Two-thirds of our customers use mobile phones to check bus routes and schedules, and that number continues to grow,” said Carla Meyer, general manager of MTA. “Now anyone can get real-time information. They can literally watch onscreen as the bus moves toward their stop and see a to-the-minute arrival time.”
The new app can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play. Once downloaded, users can select Mendocino Transit Authority in the vendor list and get going. To find the nearest bus stop, users can enable the Locate Me button. To learn when the next bus will arrive at their stop, they can select Where’s My Bus? The new app is able to show more bus stops online than the main ones listed on the printed bus schedules. In addition, riders can save favorite routes and stops for quick reference.
“This is giant step forward in MTA’s transit technology, and it brings us a lot closer to our customers,” said Meyer. “Route Shout helps our riders check quickly, even if it’s just timing the dash out the door to catch the bus.”
Bringing Route Shout technology to Mendocino County has been a year-long process, beginning with an upgrade in the company’s digital service provider and installation of GPS technology and tablets on buses.
Jacob King, MTA’s operations manager who managed installation of the new technology, said, “Like any new software installation, tailoring Route Shout to customer needs here in Mendocino County was a process. And because of the terrain and remoteness of some areas of Mendocino County, we’ve had to concede that Route Shout isn’t always going to work perfectly on our south coast routes, in Anderson Valley, and sometimes on highway 20 on the bus route from Fort Bragg to Willits. We welcome feedback while it’s still new.”
Route Shout is a product of RouteMatch, an Atlanta-based provider of transit technologies to more than 600 transit agencies across the U.S. and world.
To download Route Shout, follow the easy steps pictured below: