This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.
The Camp Fire was started on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Butte County, Calif. It was named after its place of origin, Camp Creek Road. The fire was started by a faulty electric transmission line. It started during one of the state's driest periods; by that time of the year, the area only received one-seventh of an inch of rain, significantly less than its five-inch average. The fire is the deadliest in California history and the 13th deadliest in world history.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is in charge of inspections for PG&E's electrical infrastructure. The CPUC doesn't have the resources available to cover PG&E's infrastructure. Because of this, CPUC missed six years of inspections in the area where the Camp Fire started.
"On the morning of Nov. 8, 2018, the Camp Fire erupted 90 miles (140 km) north of Sacramento, Calif. By evening, the fast-moving fire had charred around 18,000 acres and remained zero percent contained, according to news reports." Courtesy of Wikipedia
The section of electrical towers where the fire started was built in the early 1900s. PG&E says it replaced some faulty conductors in 2016, but a 2011 audit showed their structures still have thousands of deficiencies. In 2012, a windstorm knocked down five towers in the area.
On Nov. 8, PG&E told customers that it may shut down power because the forecast showed strong winds (coupled with low humidity). PG&E de-energized some areas on Nov. 7, but not the next day. On Nov. 9, The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning (meaning the conditions are prime for wildland fire combustion) for a large area of California.
But on Nov. 8, strong winds dubbed "Jarbo Winds" hit California. Early that day, one of the PG&E power transmission lines had a problem. By 6:33 a.m., a PG&E crew member reported a fire to the Rock Creek Powerhouse. The fire spread quickly.
By 8 a.m., the Camp Fire spread to the town of Paradise. Wind speeds reached 80 km/h, so the town was ordered to evacuate within 10 minutes of the fire entering the area.
The wildfire continued to spread. By Nov. 15, 5,596 firefighters were deployed to help manage the fire. By Nov. 21, 85 per cent of the Camp Fire was contained, but over 149,000 acres were already burned.
The Camp Fire was officially contained on Nov. 25, 2018. The fire killed 85 people, destroyed 18,804 buildings, and cost US$16.65 billion (2018). And a total of52,000 people needed to be evacuated. This was the most expensive natural disaster in 2018.
To hear more about the Camp Fire, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."