How Hammering A Metal Stake Started California’s Biggest Wildfire

According to a recent report in the New York Times, electric companies in California are rejoicing after the news that forensic investigators indicated that a rancher was responsible for starting the Ranch Fire. The rancher, who is allergic to wasps, after discovering an underground wasps’ nest decided to plug the hole with a metal stake. After hitting the metal stake, sparks flew and ignited a dry stalk of grass in his backyard. The rest was ancient history.

The Ranch fire destroyed roughly 150 homes and cost the state of California an estimated tens of millions of dollars to contain. In total, the fire burned 410,203 acres. Despite the rancher being held responsible, he was not found negligent.

Because of the drought and temperatures continuing to climb in the West Coast state, tensions are building that another mundane task such as hammering a metal stake will spark another massive wildfire throughout the region. Even though this winter was a wet one, this means more vegetation available to catch fire, prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a statewide emergency this March to help aid in the clearing of crops.

While this fire might not be the fault of the power companies, the Camp Fire was declared to have started by negligent acts of the North California utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). PG&E filed for bankruptcy this past January to protect themselves the myriad of lawsuits that would be coming their way for property damage and emotional distress.

Despite the rancher’s best efforts to put out the fire, he called 911. Emergency response services came and dropped retardant chemicals but it was too little too late. Investigators found tiny metal shards from the stake near the wasp nests which is how they came to their conclusion that is what caused the fire to start.