Fire Breaks Out In Ramona, California's Wildfire Fund, Cinema Junkie
KPBS Midday Edition / October 25, 2019
Cal Fire responded to a fast-moving brush fire in Ramona that quickly burned 90 acres. Also, California regulators say that a rate-payer funded wildfire fund can move forward, and this weekend you can choose between seeing the San Diego Opera's "Aida" and New Village Art' "Toxic Avenger The Musical."
Speaker 1: 00:00 Through the morning, we've been monitoring a brush fire, which broke out East of Ramona at around nine 30 strong Santa Ana. Winds pushed what's being called the Soliday fire quickly to around 70 acres. Cal fire air attack was dispatched in force and stalled the spread of the blaze. Right now on the line with me as Cal fire captain Isaac Sanchez, he's at the command post at fire station 85 on highway 78 in Ramona and captain Sanchez. Welcome to the program.
Speaker 2: 00:29 Thank you for having us.
Speaker 1: 00:30 Uh, can you tell me where, what you're seeing right now?
Speaker 2: 00:34 Okay, well I'm seeing progress. Um, you know, when we get to a fire like this, uh, you know, one of the first things we want to see is that smoke kind of dissipating and uh, and that's exactly what we're seeing right now.
Speaker 1: 00:45 And is the fire growing at any more that you can see?
Speaker 2: 00:50 Well, I don't know that it's currently growing, but we have not declared that the fold rate of spread has been stopped. This is kind of a sensitive time right now on an, on a fire. Uh, we can certainly slow it, uh, which is always the goal. Uh, but until we can declare that the folder disparate spread has stopped, um, you know, we're, we're going to treat this like this fire a is ready to pick up and get moving again.
Speaker 1: 01:09 What were the weather conditions that fueled the spread of this fire?
Speaker 2: 01:13 Well, you know, what we've been talking about for the last week or so is the high winds out the high temperatures and the low communities and that's exactly what we had in this case. Uh, the fire did make some significant runs a fairly, in a very short amount of time. Uh, I believe it was a, a critical rate of spread, uh, when the first end engine got at scene, uh, that this fire definitely has a potential or have potential when it first started. And, and until again, we can declare that the [inaudible] spread has been stopped. It will continue to have that potential.
Speaker 1: 01:39 Are there any injuries or structures burned?
Speaker 2: 01:42 Uh, none that I'm aware of.
Speaker 1: 01:44 Uh, there were evacuations ordered though.
Speaker 2: 01:47 Absolutely. Yeah. We, we had about a, um, six to eight streets in the area of, uh, of the fire of the start of the fire that, that, uh, were evacuated, uh, or at least placed under an evacuation order. Uh, I don't have any information as far as how many people actually took the, um, took that warning, uh, to heart unless the area, but, uh, that, that is always the goal when an evacuation order is issued. It's, it's never done lightly. It's done because there is an immediate life threat today is folks that are in the area and uh, we're, we're always hoping that folks, so heed that warning and get out of the area soon as Paul,
Speaker 1: 02:18 can you tell us the types of resources Cal fi has is putting on this blaze?
Speaker 2: 02:23 Sure. It's, it's a pretty standard of a vegetation fire response. We've got about 150 firefighters engaged right now, approximately 30 fire engines, um, of all the fixed wing and all the rotary wing aircraft that we can grab up from. Not only San Diego, from the region. And, uh, it was, it was definitely all hands on deck for this incident
Speaker 1: 02:39 and it put up a lot of smoke.
Speaker 2: 02:42 Yeah, absolutely. You know, when, when, uh, when, when you have fires like this, not only do they burn quickly, but they put up a significant amount of smoke that can definitely impact the communities in a very short amount of time. But, uh, like I said, that that smoke is starting to dissipate as we speak. And a, um, uh, you know, if, if all things continue, the path that we're on right now, uh, we're hoping to declare the forward rate of spread stopped soon.
Speaker 1: 03:03 Highway 78 was in a section of, it was closed for a while. Why is that?
Speaker 2: 03:08 Well, I don't know that how we, 78 was closed, although that, that certainly is a possibility. But, uh, the only road that I'm aware of that was closed was old Julian highway at highway 78. Um, and on the East side and at, at, uh, Vista, Ramona on the, on the West side.
Speaker 1: 03:22 Do we have any idea how this fire started?
Speaker 2: 03:26 Uh, none at the point at this point. But we do have Cal fire investigators that are at scene and that is absolutely their, their goal is to as quickly as possible to determine the origin and then the cause of the incident.
Speaker 1: 03:36 Now this, yeah, the cost, this fire started very close to where the witch Creek fire started in 2007 that that might've my must've gotten a lot of people's attention.
Speaker 2: 03:46 Yeah, absolutely. You know, we, we definitely keep track of our, of our history, um, in this County when it comes to, to fighting significant fires and the fires that impact us as, as a not only an agency, but as a community in San Diego County. And I'll tell you that when, when we heard the dispatch, you know, that's the first thing that popped into my head was, was the which fire and, and, uh, um, this is certainly, uh, turning into a better result. But, uh, again, we're not letting our guard down just yet.
Speaker 1: 04:11 What are the winds like now?
Speaker 2: 04:14 Um, you know, they're, they're starting to lighten up just a little bit, but, uh, not, not for the point that, uh, that we can, uh, um, you know, rest easy. There's these, we know that the winds are supposed to stick around. At least the, the advisors are supposed to stick around until about two o'clock this afternoon. Uh, but, uh, they, they are certainly diminishing and, and have diminished significantly since, uh, since the startup fire.
Speaker 1: 04:33 So that, that timeframe of two o'clock this afternoon, this is still holding and the red flag warning is supposed to expire at five this afternoon. Is that right? That's still, that's still the situation,
Speaker 2: 04:45 you know, that that took the best of my knowledge. Yes. I know those things can change. They can be extended or shortened, uh, you know, as the conditions change. But, uh, to the best of my knowledge, yes, we will be facing significant fire threat, uh, for the rest of today. And, uh, and just for, you know, safety sake, we, we would like people to kind of just, you know, keep these conditions in mind through the weekend and, uh, and just practice safety when went out and about.
Speaker 1: 05:07 Okay. I have been speaking with Cal fire, captain Isaac Sanchez. Thank you so much for the update.
Speaker 2: 05:14 Thank you.
Speaker 3: 05:17 Uh.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Despite power outages and safety upgrades, high winds and electricity always have the potential of sparking wildfire. Because of that California rate, payers will now be paying a surcharge on their utility bills. The state public utilities commission Thursday approve the charge to help fund a $21 billion wildfire fund that utilities can use to pay for wildfire damage caused by their equipment. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune, energy reporter, Rob nickel, Leschi and Rob. Welcome to the program. Good to be back morning. Is this the same wildfire fund approved by the state legislature earlier this year,
Speaker 2: 00:36 correct? Yes. Back in July they had what they called an urgency statute and they passed assembly bill 10 54 it took less than a week. It was controversial, but the uh, the governor was supported it. A number of other people in the legislature supported it. It got through with a super majority. And so yesterday the California public utilities commission had to sign off on the funding mechanism for this wildfire fund, which comes to $21 billion. And they did. How does the fund work? The fund works this way. If a fire is ignited and it comes from or it's a, it's a, a, it's origination comes from a, uh, utility equipment and very important the, if the commission has determined that the utility has acted responsibly even though they had an ignition, then if that happens, then the utility can access that money, but there's a number of things they have to do in order to get there. First of all, as I said before, they have to show that they acted responsibly. Secondly, they have to kick in 10 point $5 billion out of that 21 billion that comes from shareholders within the utility, and then they also have to show that they need that money to pay the expenses that that caused that fire.
Speaker 1: 02:02 Now, the commissioners were unanimous in their approval. Did they say why they thought this fund was such a good idea?
Speaker 2: 02:09 They pointed to three big reasons. First of all, they said, this will help improve utility credit ratings and utility credit readiness in California have been suffering in the last year or so and right after assembly bill 10 54 passed in July, the credit ratings improved for the utilities and now, now I'll listen to her. Might say, well, why do I care if the utility credit ratings are better? Well, if they have high, if the utilities have a higher borrowing costs and they pass that onto rate payers, that's number one. Number two is the argument is that, well, now that we've got this wildfire fund, that wildfire fund will be activated and it can then get into the hands of wildfire victims quicker. And number three the utilities, since they're paying half of this 10 point $5 billion of this $21 billion fund. The other half comes from a rate, but the the plus side that the proponents say is that under the what we've got right now, if a utility has been deemed responsible but it's still ignited Y wild fires, the utility rate payers are on the hook 100% now it's 50 50 [inaudible] saying, yeah, and how much will it cost individual rate payers?
Speaker 2: 03:22 It comes out to about $2 and 50 cents per month for every rate payer across the state, and that was another one. The interesting wrinkles about this in assembly bill 10 54 that the CPC signed off on yesterday is that through the funding mechanism, what they did was a, it's kind of complicated, but the department of water resources in California, they had a fund, a bond actually that was about to expire. They're funding this $21 billion wildfire fund bike stenting the bond, and that's how they're funding. So people have been basically paying that two 50 all along. Now it'll just go in another pot. Yes. Oh, there are critics that don't like the idea of rate payers paying into this fund at all. What's their argument? There's a couple of them. First of all, they say that it's, uh, improper, uh, to be able to take $2 and 50 cents a month from rate payers without having a evidentiary hearing.
Speaker 2: 04:21 They did not have an evidentiary hearing on this. Secondly, there's another big problem they've got is, is that this under AB 10 54, it shifts the burden of proof from in the past, utilities had to prove that they had acted responsibly. Now under 10 54, the presumption is that they have acted responsibly and it's up to third party interveners or critics to prove that the, uh, utilities did not act responsibly. And that's because of the new safety requirements they have to, they have to uphold in order to actually have access to this. Yes, that's another, it's a very complicated piece of legislation, but that's exactly under this new regime. Uh, the utilities have to apply for a safety cert certification from the California public utilities commission. And that gives them the presumption that they are acting responsibly. And Southern California Edison and STG ne have already applied for the certification and got it now. So that makes you wonder what happens to the third big power company, PG and E eight, while they're in bankruptcy and they are, they will follow under, under this rubric of 10 54, AB 10 54, but only if they get through a bankruptcy proceedings. By next summer, I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, energy reporter Rob Nikolsky. Thank you so much. Thank you, Maureen.
Speaker 3: 06:00 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 As we keep our eye on the fire conditions in San Diego, we're hoping for a normal weekend, even though it's the final weekend before Halloween, if it's a little bit of spookiness, you're after San Diego's theater scene has plenty to offer. Right out loud has its final poll Fest performances featuring readings of the Edgar Allen Poe's tales of terror. Then there are a pair of femme centric musicals based on horror films offering a high body count as onstage Playhouse in Chula Vista stages. Carrie, the musical and OB Playhouse presents Heather's the musical. Hey PBS arts reporter Beth Armando invited new village arts to come into the studio to preview its concert reading of toxic Avenger. The musical, Zachary Scott Wolf sings the role of toxi and director a J Knox and music director Tony Houk provide some background on the Troma superhero.
Speaker 2: 00:56 New village arts is going to be having a staged reading of toxic Avenger. The musical. Now this is based on the film from traumas studios. So a J why do you guys at U village arts wanna be staging this?
Speaker 3: 01:10 First of all, it's Halloween. So it's a perfect show for Halloween. And it's also, it's one of those shows that works really well as a stage reading for us because it's not typically the kind of show we could do for a full run, but for our audiences, I think it's a great chance for them to get to see the show. And actually Tony Houk, who is one of new village arts, is a new artistic associates. He's in charge of all of our music programming. And he came to me a few months ago and said, I really want to do toxic Avenger for Halloween. So it's actually pretty much Tony's kind of brainchild to do this.
Speaker 2: 01:44 So Tony, what is it about toxic Avenger that appeals to you?
Speaker 4: 01:48 Everything. I love this show. So I was at home and, uh, flipping through my Broadway HD subscription and I saw that they had the toxic Avenger on there and I said, that sounds fun and interesting. Let's check it out. So I watched it and I fell in love with it. The music's fantastic. Uh, so it's a lot of fun rock music and I just loved the themes. It's like a classic love story. But then, you know, the toxic Avengers fighting for the planet and that's very topical right now. It's kind of something everyone's doing.
Speaker 2: 02:17 And Scott, you are singing the role of Melvin and toxic Avenger. Melvin goes through a few changes, uh, in this. So what's it like playing this part? Even if it's just a stage reading? You're right, he goes through a lot of, in the show physical and you know, emotional changes. I think it's important to us too because we can't do a whole lot of those physical changes in the concert reading. So I kinda just got to put on my acting pants and make sure that, you know, it, it's, it's clear what we're doing without any of the special effects or the, you know, makeup, costumes in that kind of stuff. But he has a really fun arc and a really cool journey that he goes through. So can you explain to people exactly how toxic Avenger becomes toxic Avenger because he starts out human in this, correct?
Speaker 2: 03:04 Correct. Yeah. So he starts out, his real name is Melvin for the third, and he's kind of a leaky. You want to be scientists, activists. Um, and he gets thrown into a toxic VAT of goo by the town bullies and he turns into the toxic Avenger. So Tony, talk a little bit about the music because this is kind of, it's not even a B movie trauma makes kind of Zed movies that are wildly endearing and appealing. And talk a little bit about kind of the emotional points that these songs hit. Cause toxic is kind of a, a character with some heart despite his outward
Speaker 4: 03:42 monstrous appearance. Yeah. Toxi has the biggest heart of anyone in the whole show. He has feelings just like everyone else. He falls in love with the librarian and he loves his town and he loves the planet and he just wants to be there for everyone and just be everyone's hero. So the songs really play on those points. So
Speaker 2: 04:05 we're going to hear one of the songs, but tell me some of the titles of the songs that he gets to sing.
Speaker 4: 04:10 Yeah. All right. The ones I can say on air. There's one that he sings, it's called thank God she's blind. The girl that he likes is blind and he's glad she's blind because she can't see what he looks like. She has to focus on who he is inside. Um, there's hot toxic love. And then there's the one, uh, you tore my heart out where his heart gets broken.
Speaker 2: 04:31 You tore my heart out, my human heart out.
Speaker 5: 04:41 [inaudible]
Speaker 6: 04:43 [inaudible]
Speaker 2: 04:45 you left a ho
Speaker 5: 04:47 the upper
Speaker 2: 04:50 burning holes.
Speaker 5: 04:54 [inaudible] I've never
Speaker 6: 04:58 [inaudible]
Speaker 2: 04:59 I've torn some arm. I've torn some heads.
Speaker 5: 05:04 It's off.
Speaker 2: 05:06 They're toxic Avenger. The movie was incredibly low budget and the play the musical also kind of addresses the fact that not every company can have a huge cast. And so is that something that's appealing to you as a smaller theater?
Speaker 3: 05:21 Yeah, and I think you can do a lot of really wonderful things. The way the show is written is for a five person cast, but it's got about 35 characters. So three of the cast members play multiple characters. In fact, Melissa Fernandez has a duet with herself. And I think there's a, there's a, uh, a joy to watching actors switch between roles instantaneously.
Speaker 2: 05:45 All right. Well, thank you all very much for coming in and talking about toxic Avenger. Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 4: 05:54 New village arts concert reading of toxic Avenger. The musical takes place on Saturday and Sunday in Carlsbad.