While California wildfires still rage and many are still raging over the outcome of the election results in Florida and Arizona, there is no shortage of other news that leaves us devastated.
But those California wildfires…. It’s like we can’t go for even a few months without there being another fire. Eventually, the results of the election will have to be called and that will be that for this year. But there doesn’t seem to be any end to the fires. In determining what caused this latest fire, it is possible it was attributed to PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric), a known cause of other recent California fires.
Fire investigators declared the surrounding power lines on a certain woman’s property a crime scene, likely being where the fire started.
Apparently, the woman, a Ms. Cowley, was on vacation when she got an email from PG&E telling her that their crew needed to come out to her property to work on the high-power lines because there were problems with sparks. Well, knowing how easily fires can be started in California, coupled with their own personal track record of such things, one would think that regardless of the fact that the owner of the property was on vacation, they would get right over there and not leave until they resolved the issue of why there were sparks.
But according to the news report, Ms. Cowley only got that one report in an email from PG&E and no further email telling her that they did go out, and what they found when they investigated or what was the cause of those sparks.
Cowley returned from her vacation Monday. Fortunately, most of the structures on her land were still standing; investigators were still working to figure out what sparked the gigantic fire that was raging then and still is.
I guess what really makes one wonder is why, if, first of all, it’s California, known for its raging wildfires, often because the land is so dry, and that PG&E was known to have been connected to previous fires, some maybe just by suspicion, but all the others by evidence, and now they knew about the sparks that had to be checked out and
worked on, yet they sent an email instead of calling to speak voice to voice so they would know that Ms. Cowley got the message; and then they never called her to tell what they found, what they did, or if there was any danger. Why?
While the little town of Pulga, that Ms. Cowley bought and eventually made into a picturesque destination for visitors, was her dream come true, she had yet to see that her home and all that was gone, thanks to the fire that started while she was on vacation.
No matter how much PG&E does not want to take responsibility for the raging fire, or, most devastatingly, those now over 44 deaths, saying that they made an “initial electric incident report,” as if that would mitigate any blame for those sparks that may have started this latest fire is kind of like saying “Well, it’s not my fault that that child
ran out in the middle of the road.” Chances are that in that case, it wasn’t that person’s fault; children do run out into the street, yet the first remark out of a person’s mouth should not be how they could not possibly be totally responsible for the tragedy. No one would want to be responsible for either of those two tragedies, but not
acknowledging the tragedy in some way with a touch of sorrow and dismay would not seem human or normal.
Yes, we all know that lawyers will advise us to never admit guilt, or in any way indicate that it was or could have been our fault, but it still does not seem normal to ignore the tragedy and focus on how we made “an initial electric incident report.”
I may be naive, but it seems to me that sparks can cause fires, and any sparks need to be investigated right away; and if the sparks are located on a property that belongs to a person who can be contacted by phone, that should be the first mode of contact. Emails can be sent as well, but if one is going to send an email, it would be wiser to send
a text, which is more likely to get seen before the email. But phone calls should not be ignored. When one signs up for a service, one should also be sure that the service providers have our phone numbers and even a backup number for an emergency situation.
And it wouldn’t hurt to be overcautious in light of how quickly fires can start and get out of control, so calling the person who lives at the next property over to inform them of the spark situation seems to be a good consideration as well. But the biggest consideration is to get that crew out to the property immediately and not leave there until there is no longer any hint or danger of sparks, even if it takes cutting the offending wires or doing whatever it takes to render the electrical system inactive and totally safe to leave, to be further dealt with later.
PG&E has said it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of the massive fire minutes before the blaze broke out. CalFire said that the blaze started pretty nearly where PG&E said those sparks were detected on Cowley’sproperty. While the utility announced that it might shut down the power across nine counties,
including Butte County where Pulga and Paradise are, because of the very real danger of fire, it never did — something about weather conditions not warranting that power cut. In retrospect, who wouldn’t prefer to be without power for a while in lieu of having fire wipe out their homes and property, even if it was a false alarm or caused a lot of complaints?
It’s easy enough now to say that everyone wishes PG&E would’ve shut down the power, but if they did, there would have been many complaints. Yet safety should never take the number of possible complaints into consideration. Safety first is always the way to go, regardless of the outcries. And considering how possibly lax PG&E has been over the years, having been found responsible for other fires, his could be the last straw if indeed they are found to be
It’s hard to imagine that PG&E, which has been known to be responsible for several wildfires, with the outcomes of those fires and the reasons for them well known — improper clearing out of dry trees near the power lines, poor tree maintenance in general, lack of removing fallen trees, to say nothing of poor maintenance of their equipment and untimely attending to known electrical problems; all the various problems leading to the destruction of homes and thousands of acres of land, to say nothing of the loss of 44 people in 2017 — is still carrying on.
When will they have to pay for their carelessness and lack of regard for life and property with more than a large fine that they can afford to pay?
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.