Cause of 49 Fire must be revealed as soon as possible

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It’s been more than a month since the 49 Fire and investigators have not yet revealed the cause. Bill Mendonca, lead investigator with Cal Fire, told reporter Jenifer Gee that because of the tens of millions of dollars at stake, very few details could be revealed until the investigation is completed. He would make no guess on when that might be. Many who lost their homes and businesses have serious questions about the cause of the fire, the response, and who will ultimately be financially responsible, if anyone. The fire started near a PG&E power pole at Rock Creek Road and Highway 49. The Journal watched the pole being taken down and disassembled. Did the power pole cause the fire? Is PG&E responsible for damages and suppression costs? Taxpayers – and fire victims – deserve the answer and with a sense of urgency. PG&E should be quickly and publicly exonerated if its equipment indeed played no part in the blaze’s origin. Was it arson, a spark from a passing motorist’s vehicle or another cause? Taxpayers, and especially fire victims, deserve to know the answers and soon. This was a huge disaster for the Auburn community. There were 63 homes and businesses destroyed. Thankfully and as a direct result of firefighters’ and emergency personnel’s efforts, no one was killed. But many cherished pets died. Indiscriminate flames stole countless memories. We have many residents whose lives have been catapulted into chaos by the fire. They need and deserve answers. There are people who were gainfully employed but lost jobs because of the fire. Many people did not have adequate insurance to cover losses that are still mounting. Many have also asked why, if there was plenty of time to get everyone out, were so many homes destroyed? Will an independent investigation be launched to determine whether suppression efforts were as efficient as possible? Does it make sense to have so many independent fire-fighting agencies all located within such a small region, or would residents be better served by fire district consolidation? The 49 Fire was a tragedy. There are many heroes who bravely fought the Aug. 30 inferno and who risked their own lives to save others’ lives and property. The community has been fantastic in its response, raising more than $100,000 to aid fire victims so far. But losses are likely in the tens of millions. And many questions remain unanswered. Cal Fire must work as quickly as possible to answer those questions, or at least diligently keep residents apprised of where they are in their investigation.