Jacking up prices for essentials during a state of emergency is illegal, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra reminded Californians as wildfires continued to burn this week.
“As our brave firefighters are working to contain the blazes and as many Californians are being evacuated, it should not be open season on innocent victims,” Becerra said in a statement Wednesday. “Our state’s price gouging law protects people impacted by an emergency from illegal price gouging on housing, gas, food and other essential supplies.”
California law generally prohibits charging a price that exceeds, by more than 10%, the price of an item before a state or local declaration of emergency. (There are some exceptions, including a significant increase in the price of labor or materials for the business.) Those who violate the law could face one year of imprisonment, and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Stores and gas stations in the evacuation zone north of Highway 192 were closed, and only a scattering of residents remained in the neighborhood.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Fresno-Kings Battalion Chief Roger Raines and his platoon of more than a dozen trucks and water tenders were on hand however. It was their job to assess how vulnerable homes north of the highway between San Ysidro Road and Park Lane were to the incoming fire.
The quaint eateries, coffee shops and wine shops along Lillie Drive in Summerland were closed or empty Monday as ash fell on the quiet beach town in Santa Barbara County. Residents walked their dogs and checked the daily fire map posted on a board outside the local fire station.
Up along State Route 192, Laurent Pellerin wore a surgical mask as he packed his red Audi station wagon with winter clothes and snow chains.
The 48-year-old home decor store manager was getting ready to drive his family to Chicago for a new job when the fire closed in on his cottage near Toro Canyon over the weekend. Now they are leaving, unsure if their home will survive after they go.
The last time some of the slopes and canyons burned in the mountains east of Santa Barbara in the 1970s, four firefighters operating bulldozers died in a rollover accident.
In such difficult terrain, officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Monday that they have essentially no way to get boots and hoses on the ground to attack the western front of the Thomas fire directly.
Instead, fire crews caravanned out of the Ventura County Fairgrounds on Monday and headed to the residential streets in the south-facing foothills of Carpinteria. That’s where they set up defensive positions and waited just in case the fire moved downhill .
A Redding firefighter who was injured while battling the Thomas fire is returning home, officials said Monday.
The firefighter sustained the injury around 7 a.m. Sunday, the Redding Fire Department said in a statement . He was taken to a Santa Barbara hospital, where doctors treated a fracture to his lower leg.
“Our firefighter is in good spirits and is returning home,” the statement said.
As the Thomas fire continues to rage, burning more than 200,000 acres, wind speeds are expected to be on the lower end of what’s been seen over the last week, forecasters say.
Over Sunday night and into Monday morning, there were wind gusts of around 20 mph across the lower mountains and foothills in the region of southeastern Santa Barbara County into southwestern Ventura County.
“Wind was probably not the biggest factor last night to this morning — it’s probably more the complex terrain, very dry and possibly widespread fuels for the fire and the fact that it’s a pretty large and ongoing fire,” said Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.