Mother Nature puts on a light show
A spectacle of booming thunder and bright lightning Sunday night brought excitement for those Chico residents watching the show from the comfort of their living room windows, but the show was more worrisome for anxious firefighters with their eyes on the tinder-dry foothills.

Firefighters stationed at towers in the hills started counting lightning strikes at about 10 p.m., said Butte County Fire/CDF public information officer Janet Marshall. “They stopped counting at over 100,” she said.

The thunderstorm ignited 28 fires in mere hours, burning more than 130 acres of land. The wildfire north of Oroville in Coal Canyon was the largest of the blazes, burning 60 acres. A fire burning just southeast of Chico near Nance Canyon was the closest of all the fires to Chico’s city limits and burned 35 acres. There was also a reported fire off Media Way and Skyway closer to Paradise.

The fires, though numerous, caused little damage. Marshall said that all but one of the blazes was controlled by 8 a.m. Tuesday. No injuries or road closures were reported.

Firefighters knew they had a long night ahead of them when calls of lighting strikes started being reported, Marshall said. More than 250 firefighters responded to the wildfires with 39 engines and 11 firefighting planes.

CDF fire engines from surrounding counties such as Napa, Siskiyou, Santa Cruz, and Amador were sent in to lend a hand to Butte County’s crews.

Marshall said the cooler, damper weather was cooperative because it doused the fires with moisture, which kept them smaller and easier to control. Now that the flames are extinguished, fire crews are busy pinpointing “sleepers,” or wildfires that smolder on forest floor days after the lightning strikes, she said.

“We just let the cards fall with what Mother Nature gives us,” Marshall said.

Gov. Davis signs controversial emissions bill; Sen. Oller protests
Are Californians willing to give up their beloved SUVs in order to help stave off global warming? No, says Sen. Rico Oller, R­San Andreas, who doesn’t believe the tradeoff is worth it. Oller blasted Gov. Gray Davis’ signing of AB 1493, suggesting that Davis may have been “motivated by secret campaign contributions” when he gave his stamp of approval on increased fuel-economy standards the U.S. Senate has refused to adopt.

The bill would lower vehicle emissions via methods to be determined by the state Air Resources Board—regulations that would be applied only to cars made in 2009 or later. The decrease in emissions would most likely be accomplished by increasing fuel efficiency in pickups and sports utility vehicles, a requirement the U.S. Senate refused to set. Critics say such changes will make pickups and SUVs too expensive for consumers and push manufacturers to produce cars that are lighter and less-protective in the event of an accident.

“AB 1493 is ludicrous because carbon dioxide emissions from California’s automobiles constitute an immeasurably small fraction of the carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere,” Oller stated in a press release. “We exhale carbon dioxide with every breath, and there is simply no proof that this inert gas has detrimentally impacted our environment.”

According to the bill, gasoline-powered vehicles are responsible for 40 percent of the total greenhouse gas pollution in the state. California is the first state to take such action.

Also critical of Davis is the Washington, D.C.-based group Americans for Tax Reform, which said Sacramento politicians have no business imposing stricter regulations than those adopted by national legislators.

Environmental scientists beg to differ and are celebrating the signing of the bill. Unless Davis changes his mind or voters pass a referendum, cars will be traveling California belching out fewer greenhouse-effect gases due to improvements such as more engine cylinders, designs with less air resistance and better tires.