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An American flag hangs in front of a home that was destroyed by wildfires in California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A dozen wildfires in Northern California last October were started by "electric power and distribution lines, and the failure of power poles" from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), according to a release from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The big picture, per Axios' Andrew Freedman: Contributing factors were tinder dry conditions, powerful winds, and long-term drought in the state that had left lands ready to burn. Also, land development practices likely exacerbated the situation too. Winds during these events exceeded hurricane force (75 mph), but the power line finding likely clears the way for lawsuits against PG&E.

Why it matters: This was the deadliest series of fires in the state's history, the Associated Press explains, and two of the fires resulted in the deaths of 15 people. These 12 fires were part of a greater scale of wildfires that ravaged California, killing more than 40 people and forcing thousands to evacuate.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

3 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.

Trump pardons Michael Flynn

President Trump with Michael Flynn in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with a former Russian ambassador.

Why it matters: It is the first of multiple pardons expected in the coming weeks, as Axios scooped Tuesday night.