By Paul Komin (’20)
As we all know, PG&E issued power outages all over the state this past month to prevent wildfires after they were sued last year when their equipment sparked up the “Camp Fire,” the worst fire in California’s history. Their concrete plan to stop the fires this year was about as solid as a single campfire-roasted marshmallow. The only thing that these power outages prevented the spreading of was vital information — not to mention their website was shut down right before the outages both times they occurred, leaving around 700,000 people quite literally “in the dark” on the whole situation. Though that was enough to get the public all fired up, PG&E’s plan went completely up in smoke when some shocking evidence left yet another burn mark on the power company’s already-charred reputation.
While the power was down in various parts of the state for days at a time, sources say a small metal link connecting PG&E electrical lines on a transmission tower — which was located on the appropriately dubbed “Burned Mountain” — malfunctioned just seven minutes before the Kincade Fire ignited in that exact same area. You’d assume a place named “Burned Mountain” to be the first that PG&E would shut off power to. The bankrupt company still somehow managed to lose $1.2 billion in the stock market as a result of this disaster, and are facing an additional $30 billion in liabilities. With such a rapid and drastic loss in cash, it seems dry grasses, shrubs, and trees aren’t the only things PG&E is capable of burning through at an unprecedented rate. Fortunately, as of November 3rd, the Kincade fire reached 76% containment, allowing evacuees to return to their homes — thanks to the brave firefighters who risked their lives to stop its spreading.
In response to the expected public outrage, PG&E released a public statement in which they described a few “more effective” ideas to combat this seemingly annual, unnatural disaster. “We plan to cut off oxygen to these high-risk areas in the years to come,” said Ms. Malashenko, executive director for safety at the California Public Utilities Commission. “The solution was obvious to us — if we simply removed oxygen from the equation, the fires wouldn’t be able to start. If residents could just hold their breath and adapt to survive without this resource for a day or two, we could easily prevent the destruction that these wildfires bring to our state.” A more direct approach was provided by Mr. Johnson himself, the President of PG&E: “I think the most productive way to keep these catastrophes from occurring is to eliminate all trees from the state completely. Evidently, it takes too much time and effort for us to send workers out to trim them, and trees are responsible for providing the fires with both the oxygen and kindling they need to spark up. Two birds, one stone.” When further questioned about how the company would go about removing all of this vegetation, Mr. Johnson replied, “Oh, we’ll burn it all down, of course.” Although it seems PG&E has burned all their bridges, we can only hope that this backlash will light a fire under the company, so they can blaze a trail to an age free from wildfires.