Head of Cal Fire says North Bay fires may have been caused by man

MATHER, Calif. (KGO) -- Crews are too busy saving lives and trying to put out wildfires in the North Bay to investigate what sparked them, but the head of Cal Fire told I-Team's Dan Noyes chances are they may have been caused by man.

We explored many issues with the Cal Fire chief: a possible cause, how the battle is going right now, and why we're seeing so many more wildfires this year, compared to last.

FULL LIST: North Bay fires prompt evacuations, road closures

At the State Emergency Operations Center just outside Sacramento, Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott compared the wildfires raging across Northern California to the very early stages of a boxing match. "We're in the first round of this fight, it's still very early," Pimlott told Dan Noyes. "The winds have subsided, we don't see the kind of conditions of Sunday night, those can return and they're forecast to return to some level later in the week, but we have very little containment on most of these fires."

Pimlott added, fire crews are focusing on saving lives first, property second, and finally getting some containment of the flames. He said the investigation into the fire's origin will come later, but that 95-percent of the time, wildfires are caused by man. "And that's all causes, it could be literally somebody putting their car off to the side of the road into dry grass," he said.

Noyes: "Is there any indication that there's arson involved?

Pimlott: "That's what we're going to get to the bottom of, we really want to know the cause, it's so early to tell."

The chief told Noyes there are no reports of arson at this time, and at the news conference on Tuesday, CHP officials cautioned drivers about tossing out cigarette butts.

Pimlott confirms the number of wildfires is up 35-percent - 1,500 more fires than last year, and he blames global warming, at least in part.

Noyes: "What has changed with climate change?"

Pimlott: "Fire seasons are longer, on average, fire seasons are 78 days longer in the west, and that's been averaged over the last 40 years."

Cal Fire is spending $42 million this year for what they're calling "climate adaptation", putting an extra 42 engines into service year-round to join the current 10, and adding a new air tanker to serve the Central Valley. "Because we're finding fires are occurring year-round in California, not just in what we consider the traditional summer months," Pimlott said.

Some may argue whether climate change is real, but the Cal Fire chief is seeing the effects firsthand and taking action.

PHOTOS: Fires rage out of control in North Bay
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