This is one of those discussions that I’ve been dabbling in with friends and family and glad to see it here as well. I’m in a unique position to really see the fire side, the PGE side, and the affected citizen/community side.
We as a society have become so quick to blame, or demand blame (anywhere else but me right?) and then quickly raise the pitchforks. It’s in our political sphere, it’s in our personal sphere, it’s at work, it’s everywhere. Just like what our massive businesses have become, capitalizing on the gains and socialize the losses, we are demanding the benefits of being a stakeholder, but not committing to the cost and weight of being a stakeholder. We vehemently yell at the problem, but when it’s time to put up, we shut up.
We want a rural house with a view. We want property with no government fingers or regulations touching it. We want electricity and 5 bars of cell service to it. We want it all. But we don’t want to assume any risk for that. PGE better keep that 15mile rural line energized to my property so I can watch the game and keep my meat frozen. There wasn’t even any wind on my property!
Committing to being a stakeholder requires getting dirty, it requires some ugly questions. Questions not meant to place blame, but to get dialog started so we can grow and bypass the damn waste of time the blame game is. Are we all ready to admit that despite public opinion, PGE does in fact spend millions on maintaining their system? Can we also admit that, with hindsight, it certainly wasn’t enough, or timely enough, especially in the changing climate? Is that…neglect?
Are we also adult enough to understand our climate is changing right here in our backyard with prolonged fire conditions and drier fuels; weather systems that seem to be shifting 10yr storms into 1yr storms, and 50-100yr storms into 5-10yr storms? Are we ready to admit that we still want 24/7 power, on lines traversing that drying tinderbox faster than PGE can/is hardening it? Are we ready to admit that many of us curse at the beautiful trees being cut down, at the PGE copters flying low over our backyards, or at the power bill rising to catch up with what it maybe should have been earlier?
Are we ready to admit we have a mess of captured regulatories with our CPUC, legislators, FCC etc so companies spend money on lobbyists to avoid improving any of these utilities beyond the minimal so that profits and bonuses can soar? Are we ready to admit we allowed the entire cellphone infrastructure to be built with zero fed or state regulation regarding backup power? Are we ready to admit we allowed the phone companies to transition their copper (regulated since early 1900’s) over to fiber (bypassing instead of transitioning those regulations) so they also don’t require backup power? Are we ready to vote appropriately to start cleaning this greedy mess up, from our local council on up to state and fed?
And the hardest question to ask for us in this group (hold on, putting my ARFF suit on for this one), did any of us on these fires make a decision that inadvertently allowed that fire to grow bigger?
Are we ready to admit that regulations citing better building codes, utility maintenance and hardening, logging practices that don’t cause crowning, etc should be looked at?
Our current practice of pointing a finger to persecute/prosecute the spark (or not, in the case of Tubbs, Ranch, and Carr fires) doesn’t take into consideration any of the ugly questions above. Is that spark beholden to all that above? Damned that spark occurred in Nov and not in January, that neighbor’s mess caused your house to burn, the trees are a decade into drought and beetle kill, that DIVS didn’t hold their ground when they could have, that wonk in a cubicle in the air pollution office 400 miles away said no to the VMP a year before that could have prevented this, that politician that took money for a vote, that CEO who should have spent 30% instead of 20% revenue on maintenance.
edit: sorry for wall of text - that added up quickly