Private fire crews in California’s wine country raise concerns over equity and safety

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A firefighter uses a drip torch during a backfire operation on Sept. 29, 2020 as the Glass Fire burns along Silverado Trail in Calistoga. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

A firefighter uses a drip torch during a backfire operation on Sept. 29, 2020 as the Glass Fire burns along Silverado Trail in Calistoga. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

As California wildfires get worse, the role of private firefighting crews helping well-heeled clients protect their property has become a growing issue from Brentwood and Malibu to Santa Barbara and Napa.

Authorities are now investigating new allegations that private crews set illegal backfires last week during the destructive Glass fire, which has swept through wine country. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection investigators confirmed they were examining the claims but provided few details about the location of the backfires or who hired the crews.

The Glass fire has destroyed numerous wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties and hit upscale communities along Highway 12, the main road through wine country.

The investigation is heightening scrutiny around the use of private crews, which has been a repeated source of concern among fire departments and was the subject of new laws after numerous private companies were seen across Malibu and Calabasas during the 2018 Woolsey fire.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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