Depending on where you live, you may/may not have followed the massive Northern California wild fires last year. Paradise (the town) was destroyed completely. Other communities and scattered homes were also affected, either directly by the fires, by blowing debris, by the efforts to control the fires, etc, etc. At minimum 86 people died. It might well be more as this has long been an “off-the-grid” area where weed has traditionally been one of the largest cash crops. At best guess, one of PG&Es transformers blew, starting the fire which spread extremely rapidly due to high winds and drought conditions.
There has been a lot of finger pointing for the last year. A lot of he said/she said. A lot of “no one is personally responsible.” What I do know is that PG&E, like some of the other massive industries (see Boeing) underwent a culture shift in the last 10-20 years to an emphasis on making money and paying dividends to stockholders
Honestly? Maintenance and upgrades of an aging electrical system aren’t cheap. Money spent on maintenance isn’t available to pay high salaries to certain executives and stockholders. At the same time, no one seems to want to pay the real costs of the energy they use. So – no win all around and more finger pointing.
None of this is helped by the fact that this fall, we once again have extremely dry conditions, high winds, higher than normal conditions, coupled with areas of brush not cleared and trees interfering with power lines. Yes, PG&E is making progress on clearing trees and branches away from power lines and transformers, but it isn’t realistic to expect that years of neglect are going to be remedied in a few short months.
Parts of the area have already gone through one power outage. To say that the communications were terrible is an understatement. As it turned out, most of the areas that “might have to be turned off” were not. And, of course, there are all those whose very lives are dependent on electricity who suddenly realized they were going to have a problem. Now, I can understand the issue if you are living in one of the accessible buildings – it is part of the cities responsibility to make sure that your respirator will have power. That you have a location where you can recharge your electric wheelchair. But for everyone else. Hello? What part of living on a portion of the Hayward Fault don’t you get? An earthquake could easily knock out your power. What were you planning on doing?
The city of Berkeley has been desperately trying to identify those at highest risk and assist in plans. For a city of independent people, leftover hippies and the like, there seems to be a huge element of “you need to take care of me.”
With PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) literally supplying millions of customers, I would have expected some confusion. After all, I guess it is too much for some people to understand that if some portions have to be taken off the grid – everyone downstream is going to be without power. Because of the cost (see above) most areas are supplied by a single source. You turn off that grid area because it is in a high fire risk zone and ……. you get the idea
Which leads us to today. It is unseasonably hot. It is windy. The hills in which I live are fairly high fire risk. Not only is it dry, but over the decades, people have planted eucalyptus, a lot of eucalyptus trees. Originally, our power was scheduled to go off at 1700. Now potentially it is 2000. We have made plans: Richmond is not affected which means that I can drop off everything that needs to stay cool or frozen with Shana. I have a couple of coolers. Because of George’s med supplies, we have lots and lots of cold packs, all of which are frozen. We will leave only if there is an actual fire. Everything is charged, and frankly – I can get internet on my phone if I am desperate.