tv KQED Newsroom PBS October 13, 2017 7:00pm-7:31pm PDT
welcome to "kqed newsroom." i'm scott shafer in for thuy vu. coming up on today's program, an update on the wildfires that have killed at least 35 people and burned more than 220,000 acres in california. we'll hear of one man's determination to save one of the oldest properties in the napa valley. also we'll gather a team of political gurus to analyze the week in politics, including senator dianne feinstein's decision to seek at term. and we'll talk with a uc berkeley professor about the link between climate change and devastating wildfires. but first an update on the fire. the death toll from wildfires raging across california keeps climbing. as of 4:00 p.m. friday, cal fire is reporting 35 people dead,
5,700 structures destroyed, 220,000 acres burned in 17 large fires. 90,000 people evacuated. kqed's monica lam filed this report earlier in the day from sonoma county. >> reporter: all week, thousands of firefighters have been battling a series of catastrophic blazes that began last sunday in the north bay. 15 fires are still burning in eight counties including sonoma and napa counties. the fires have already left more than 30 dead, and they are not yet contained. thousands of buildings have burned, and many have lost their homes and everything they possess. governor brown has declared a state of emergency for napa, sn sonoma, and yuba. >> we've got to ready to deal with this situation and then prepare for others that will follow in the years to come. >> reporter: meanwhile the community has pulled together to battle the fire on every front.
donations have been pouring in for evacuees. volunteers have come from around the bay area and beyond to help. aaron post is the ceo of the sonoma rin fairgrounds in petaluma. >> we actually opened our doors or gates first thing monday morning at 4:00 a.m. we had quite a few evacuees in our parking lot. >> reporter: the fairgrounds have been transformed into an engine shelter. >> i live right here in petaluma, actually grew up in this area. i've witnessed -- i've seen devastation, but never this close. so it's been troubling, but knowing that what we're doing is helping those who need help right now makes each day a little easier and what we're doing brings smiles to faces of kids and families. it's been really great. >> reporter: i'm here at the sonoma marin fairgrounds in p petalu petaluma, one of the shelters that have been thrown up virtually overnight to accommodate the people displaced
by the fires. for privacy reasons we can't go inside the main dormitory right now, but many people have chosen to pitch their tents in the not quite so fresh air. sonia diaz and her family fled their home in the town of sonoma early monday morning. >> it's been fun here, but over there looks terrible. >> are you worried about your home? >> yeah. >> yesterday, they lost everything. playgrounds. they lost everything. [ speaking spanish ] >> my grandpa knocked on our door, and then my dad was sleeping. then he went outside, and he smelled the smoke, and he woke us up. >> he woke up like five, four neighbors because they don't know. because most of the friends, they don't watch tv. he started going to the friends
from the school, warning them. >> reporter: this emergency shelter also offers medical and mental health services. michelle patino helped set up this clinic from the ground up. >> i just started posting out on the app next door, facebook, and before i knew it, believe it or not, the community of petaluma came in with all these medical donations and pretty much has filled this up. this is all from the community of sonoma. >> reporter: the clinic provides basic medical services and medications. >> many of the people here wouldn't know the resources, wouldn't know how to get their medications they need. i mean they take medications on a daily basis for these chronic conditions that without these medications, it could be life-threatening in the long term. >> reporter: as the fires continue to burn, air quality throughout the bay has worsened. so have worries about asthma and other respiratory ailments. >> especially with the air quality and smoke inhalation that people are going through, any kind of breathing related
illnesses such as asthma, copd can flare up. and some people are forgetting to bring their meds. and we have all the supplies to be able to do so. >> reporter: fire officials have said the next four days are critical as they monitor wind conditions over the weekend. for "kqed newsroom," i'm monica lam. as we just heard, napa and sonoma have been two of the counties hit hardest by the wildfires. in santa rosa, the entire neighborhood of coffey park went up in flames. when the tubs wildfire began on sunday night, most people fled, but derek webb decided to stay put. he owns the triple s ranch, a private resort in the napa valley. he told kqed how he saved the historic property for now at least. >> wildfires have been raging throughout northern california. when did you know your property was going to be in danger? >> was eating dinner on the bank porch sunday evening and a neighbor of mine raced down the road.
he's a volunteer fireman. he could smell smoke. we couldn't see any fire, so we all raced down the road looking for the fire. we were coming back up the road, and then all of a sudden we looked up the hill and just saw a massive fireball coming up over the mountain. >> what did you do? >> well, first thing we did besides being very scared is we went back down the street and told everybody to evacuate. so we made sure that everybody else saw the fireball and knew what to do. i personally stayed, as did my neighbor, because we wanted to defend our properties. but most of the neighbors left. we started at 10:00 fighting the fires, and we finished at basically 8:00 in the morning. we used tractors. we used backhoes. we used shovels, picks, wet blankets, everything you can think of. it was a constant battle because the wind was shifting. it would come one direction at 60 miles an hour, and then come the other direction at 60 miles an hour. meanwhile, while we're doing this, we're watching all our neighbors houses explode literally. we're watching trees explode.
the sounds were incredible. propane tanks exploding, cars exploding, 360 degrees. >> reporter: as the wildfires continues to burn killing at least 19 people, derek showed me how close the flames came to reaching his property. i see this line right here where everything is charred, but this from here onward is okay. >> literally this line is where we ended the fire with rakes and shovels. that's it. there were 100-foot flames out here, 50-foot flames there. you can see that's all burnt out. there's nothing there. but if you look over here, you can see we were able to save all of this. that was the miracle of what we were able to do. >> derek, you literally risked your life to save your property. >> well, we did. it wasn't just me. it was myself, my employee es and my neighbor. we thought it was worth it. the reason i wasn't scared is we have a swimming pool in the center of the property that's not up against any buildings. i told everybody in the
beginning of the night, if we're going to fight this ing this, if it gets out of control, we all go here and ride the storm out. thank god whie never had to do . i have cried so many times over the last two days. i'm not a super emotional guy but just going through the whole thing and realizing the luck of the draw. >> it's not just derek who has an emotional connection to triple s ranch, which was once a dairy farm and restaurant. since he bought the property in 2012 and began renovating it, 150 couples have rented its grounds, grand victorian and rustic barn to celebrate an unforgettable day. >> on november 19th, 2016, my wife and i got married under this beautiful, majestic walnut tree. on that day, it rained 2 1/2 inches. before i exchanged my vows, i thanked our guests for coming to our monsoon wedding. it's hard to believe 11 months later this tree along with your property may have gone up in flames. >> they say in california, earthquake, fires and floods. we have them all the time. but the beauty is irreplaceable
and that's why we fought so hard to save it. >> the terrible thing about fire is five houses can be destroyed. one house survives. there's a little bit of guilt in that even. >> reporter: as the sun receded, derek took me to a neighboring property now reduced to ans. >> this is the resort down the road. everything was destroyed as well as 30 houses that sit twin hebe here and there. we escaped it and they did. it breaks my heart to imagine what this owner will go through. >> as the fires raced unchecked through california wine country this week, vice president mike pence was in sacramento raising money for the republican party. he took time out to assure california that the trump administration stood ready to help with any federal resources needed to manage the disaster. meanwhile in washington, senator dianne feinstein ended speculation about her political future. she announced on twitter that she was going to run for re-election next year, leaving
some democrats less than excited. joining me now to talk about these and other political issues of the week, our political senior writer carla mare knew chi and sean walsh. let's start with the fires. oftentimes, sean, after a disaster, the president will come out and visit. that happened in texas and florida and puerto rico. what are the do's and don't's for this president if he were to come to california? >> the do's are bring money and make sure that you have resources like air tankers or other federal resources available to help fight the fire, number one. number two, don't get in the way. so secret service comes when a president comes. local law enforcement comes. that would take resources away from fighting the fire. so don't come in the middle of the crisis. when it's near the en, come and show the love. >> i think it was a good sign we saw president trump and governor brown speaking on the phone and trump assuring him that the federal money is going to be there. but we know the bill is going to be very big here in california.
and as much as pence and trump have assured california they're going to be there, people are watching the tweet about puerto rico and, hey, fema can't hang around that locng. i think in california a lot of folks are wondering are the feds going to hang around. >> between the rancor between sacramento and washington, it's been considerable, california has done okay with some measures with like the oroville dam. >> people forget but we had some of the heaviest rains in history last year, and we asked for federal declaration disaster. the money came. president trump delivered. no issues, no problems. same thing with the fires here. same thing with the oroville dam. money came there. the dam's up in the klamath area. even jerry brown himself has said president trump is doing pretty well in this arhea. >> do you think there would be a risk or temptations for democrats to earn points by doing something, saying something. >> even governor brown brought up the issue of climate change
and how this is integral to what's happening in the environment. i think on that point, democrats are not going to let loose. they're going to keep hammering that one. as sean said, the issue of money is the big one, and so far we've seen the federal government deliver, and the local officials have said that. i think that's what we're going to be watching. >> speaking of local officials, sean, so far everyone is admiring the work that the firefighters are doing not just from california but from all over the country. but as things get under control, what sorts of accountability, what sorts of questions might be directed at local officials, do you think? >> well, as this program is airing tonight, you've got 32 people who have lost their lives and over 400 people that are missing. i think when we look back at this issue, we're going to say why was not the emergency broadcast network activated for all of those counties that were affected? i think it's a very, very serious issue. as these fire storms swept over these neighborhoods, people had literally minutes. there was almost no media
broadcasting live at that time. i think only kgo was broadcasting live. the twitter accounts were not active from oakland fire department, oakland county and the regular police agencies. >> let's switch to dianne feinstein. she's running for re-election. it got buried by this fire news. she's 84 years old. some including ro khanna said it's time for someone else. >> this really kicked off what is going to be a continuing issue within the democratic party in california between the old guard, the establishment democrats, and those new progressive bernie crats. >> you had many come out, kamala harris, eric garcetti come out. but because nancy pelosi has put out the message we don't want -- the democrats don't want an interparty fight, a civil war as they're trying to take back the
house. she said that should be the democrats' first priority when they're writing campaign checks. anyone who goes up against feinstein has that issue to worry about. >> the critics are saying she's too moderate. she said nice things about donald trump when she was at the commonwealth club a few weeks ago. how do you see it from a governing perspective? effectiveness? >> carla's publication wrote something interesting going back to the mccarthy era. bill clinton was right. he brought the democrats back by try anglation, moderation and being successful in the policy arena. with mr. trump's tweets, it's masked over the democrats are having a civil war not just in california but across the whole country for the hearts and minds. who's going to give the money to the democrats? i don't think the radical bernie people are going to be the funders. >> kevin deleon state, tom steyer, we know who they are but not well known. >> stier has spent millions and millions of dollars to back
democratic causes nationwide. he could be a problem for feinstein because he's got $50 million or $100 million he could throw in immediately and it wouldn't hurt him at all. kevin de leon is a number of elected california officials are trying to move up the ladder and have nowhere to go. he's termed out next year. he's going to have to introduce himself to california voters as is stier, and that's going to be a very heavy lift in california where dianne feinstein's name is known by 98% of all voters. >> and fairly positively as well, even among some independent voters and a few republicans. i'm going to switch now to silicon valley because on november 1st, there's going to be a hearing in the senate. the intelligence committee looking into how facebook and google might have been used and other tech companies in the election by russian operatives. that is not happening in isolation, sean. there's a lot going on. a lot of criticism being directed at silicon valley companies right now. >> look, silicon valley, they're
probably about the only group that's having a worse week than harvey weinstein down in hollywood. not only are they being looked at for being manipulated for the election. they're also being looked at have they favored one side of the political spectrum over another. they had most recently sexual harassment issues involved in there. i don't know if you call uber silicon valley, but i do. >> sure. >> so there's a lot of issues that go across the panoply, and it's all looking at silicon valley, and none of it is good. >> speaking of harvey weinstein, you've got those issues as well. >> exactly. this all goes to who are the golden boys and girls in media. silicon valley, absolutely. now the shine is off them, and harvey weinstein, big democratic donor, someone who now a number of elected officials have said they're giving the donations back. they can't understand why that story was buried for so long with no public recognition. >> before we go, i want to bring up the aca, the affordable care
act, obama care. president trump early friday or late thursday night said he's ending insurance subsidies which help low income buy insurance. what's the impanel? california? >> covered california folks have said already that the premiums are going to go up at least 12%, probably more for people who are older and in more need of insurance. it will get cheaper for younger and healthier people, but a lot of critics say this is going to affect millions of people. >> and a lot of those people are probably trump voters, right? >> number one, i think the premiums were going up anyway. it's a trend across the country, number one. number two, california unlike many other states actually put 4 million people on medi-cal, so i don't think it actually affects a lot of the california population as much but the costs are going to explode. so donald trump is doing what the republicans in congress said they were going to do and voted on dozens and dozens of times, which is to dismantle obamacare. perhaps this actually gives a new vehicle to come forward with some sort of comprehensive reform. if you're a democrat, i think they're going to see
opportunities to try and push single payer either in california or across the country. >> it does seem, carla, that some of these policies including the tax plan that came out a couple weeks ago disproportionately could hurt california. >> yes. and as we're going forward to 2018 with seven vulnerable house seats in california, gop house seats, every one of those house members are going to be tied at the hip to donald trump and the tax policy and trumpcare. >> and just quickly, sean, how big is a problem is that for them? >> it hurts california because california has the highest personal income tax rates in the country and his proposal was to not allow for the deductions on -- >> but a lot of those folks are republicans. >> i don't know. last time i checked -- but anyway, so the issue is i don't think california is targeted per se, but i think the policies do potentially have impacts on californians. >> sean walsh, carla marinucci. next week the state republicans
are meeting in anaheim. we'll get to that next time. exactly what started this week's disastrous fires is still under investigation, but we do know that hot dry conditions created a perfect storm for exactly the kind of nightmare sparked by these flames. there were winds of almost 80 miles an hour and plenty of dead trees and brush after years of drought. plus the hottest summer on record left the hills in wine country ready to explode in flames. to some, that sounds a lot like the results of climate change, but is it? to explore that question, we're enjoyed by uc berkeley professor daniel cammen. he recently resigned as science envoy. there's often a reluctant to blame a weather event for climate change, but as you look at what's happening now in wine country, do you see the fingerprints on climate change on this? >> absolutely. it is hard to pin individual events, but the conditions you
mentioned, the years of drought even with one good year we had last year, the buildup of brush, and the very hot conditions, these more extreme events, these very strong winds, these are all things that are entirely consistent with what we expect to see in a climate changed world. >> what is the relationship between climate change and wind? >> so it's not a simple relationship. when we talk about big storms like the hurricanes, we do expect those to be made more extreme. but in terms of winds, this is actually part of our seasonal pattern. it is the fall -- summer to fall transition. winds start to blow towards offshore. but all of these events we expect to become more severe, so in this case higher winds, as we get more and more temperature differences. we've had the hottest year on record in california and worldwide, so that's entirely consistent with what we expect to see. >> of course the santa ana winds have been around for many, many
years down in southern california. how is this different from that, or is it just a matter of the conditions that are always present down south now being present up here? >> well, they've always been present up here too, just nowhere near to the extreme and to the frequency that we see in the los angeles area with santa anas. this is a similar flow. it is the offshore -- from onshore to offshore flow, and those winds are driven by temperature differences. so the more hot we get over the land, the more we set the conditions. so the ability to tie an individual event, until we get data afterwards, is hard to climate change, but this is consistent with what we expect to unfortunately be seeing more of as the climate continues to change. >> so it isn't exactly that climate changes causes these fires, but it amplified some of the risks. >> we often say it puts a very hard finger on the scale, and it tilts the conditions and makes it more prone. just like in the hurricanes we've seen in the gulf, the
warmer waters of the gulf of mexico basically provide a larger battery, a larger engine to drive those conditions. and we've seen these obviously devastating storms. we're seeing the same thing here in that those hotter conditions -- and again with this huge burden of dry brush that we're seeing, which is the perfect tinder for the fire once it's started. so it exacerbates an already precarious situation. that's what we see in climate change in a whole variety of settings unfortunately. >> we just came through a very wet winter, almost a record wet winter. one might think that would have helped. but in an odd way, it may have made things worse, right? >> well, it does help. there's no question that more rainfall, filling up reservoirs is a good thing. but you don't recover from a multi-year drought in one season. that was one of the warnings that governor brown made. that while we were so delighted to see the extra rainfall and the snowpack, that you don't recover right away, and the
mindset needs to not change. we know we're in a climate changed world. globally we've already seen about one degree celsius of warming. the international community, the paris climate accord has set a two-degree cap that we must not exceed. president trump seems to think differently but the rest of the world and scientists, engineers are all very strongly aligned around that. so we are seeing the conditions that set us up to suffer more as climate changes, and that's why this need to really not just find defensible space around your homes, but to protect yourselves as much as possible as we expect these kinds of events to become more frequent. >> you mentioned president trump. you recently resigned, as i mentioned at the top, as science envoy to the u.s. state department and somewhat human orle -- and first letter of each paragraph spelled out impeach going down. help us understand, if you would, what is the climate
denial truly based on? some say it's about profit. some say it's good giving the oil companies and fossil fuel companies what they want. but is there an actual denial of the data and the facts in reality? >> there really is. there's a very small group of very vocal people denying the climate science that the intergovernmental panel on climate change of which i'm apart, which shared the 2000 nobel peace prize, scientists worldwide with a variety of ideologies have all said this is the science of climate. it is no more in doubt than evolution or other features. the community that denies it, i really don't understand their motivation. the same large companies have the chance to make a great deal of profits in a clean energy world, not just a fossil energy world. so my resignation, which is available on twitter, it's @dan underscore cammen is a letter that i because not only is the
president's withdrawal from the paris climate accord, which is bad business for the united states, we really stood to profit by being a seller of these technologies. but also over the president's stances on immigration, on treatment of minorities and women as the charlottesville and other events have highlighted. and all of that was inconsistent with my job as a science envoy for the state department where diplomacy and civility not only are international efforts, they need to begin at home with daca, with the d.r.e.a.m.ers. so those were the reasons that drove me to that resignation which sadly the line may seem humorous but i hate the to need to write something as strong as something in my view this president is conducting impeachable behavior. >> less than a minute left. given that climate change is likely to continue and perhaps get worse, what does that suggest to you about fire suppression strategies going forward? >> so there's a long-term
discussion. do we let forests take their natural course or try to clear vegetation? that debate has been rendered a little bit moot because of the hundreds of millions of dead trees in the sierras that we now need to deal with. so clearing that is certainly part of the agenda. the broader story about fryire response is going to involve how we think about our water resources, how we plan new communities to make them more sustainable against fires and other issues, and that strategy is very central to california's planning as it basically moves into the greenhouse and deals with the climate changed world. >> energy professor dan cammen thank you so much for helping us explain the connection between climate change and these wildfires. >> thank you. before we leave, we want to say that our hearts go out to all those affected by the wildfires and our thanks go to the thousands of firefighters working overtime to contain the flames. for the latest information about the fires, relief efforts, and how to donate, please go to
>> disruption at home and abroad. president trump undermines the obama agenda on health care. and the iran nuclear deal. we'll discuss the politics and consequences of unraveling commitments, tonight on "washington week." >> i just keep hearing repeal, replace. should have been done a long time ago. >> after failed attempts in congress, president trump dismantles obamacare on his own. his administration will stop paying monthly subsidies that cover low-income americans. democrats sound the alarm. >> this is sabotage of the affordable care act and quite frankly a real disservice to the american people, many of whom voted for him. >> what do the new rules mean for americans and the future of the law? plus... the president says the