Californian electricity company PG&E has taken a new tactic to prevent wildfires: cutting off power during series of high winds to reduce the risk of something catching on fire. Despite their “best efforts” to prevent this from happening, there are still fires raging in California.
This fire, and this situation affects more people than those just living in California and experiencing it first-hand. Students on Pacific University’s campus are feeling the impacts, as many of them have family members there or are even from the California area themselves.
“My parents live in an area where high winds occur often, so they have had their power shut off multiple times,” Pacific sophomore Anyssa Markowich said. “The last time that the power was shut off a fire started in a nearby town, and there was no way to contact my parents to make sure they were safe, and notify them of the fire.”
Not only was Markowich unable to contact her parents to notify them of the danger, but they were also unable to contact her and let her know that they were okay.
So, is PG&E’s approach actually working? The root of the problem lies within faulty and outdated equipment that makes it easy for fires to spark. Californian judges are pressuring the company to eliminate these risks, but replacing all of this equipment could cost up to $150 billion, according to an article by the New York Times.
“I just wish that they had gotten their act together and replaced their old equipment before this became a problem,” said Markowich.
PG&E recently filed a proposal that cost $2.3 billion to help prevent wildfires this season. In their proposal, they included tactics such as more tree trimming, equipment inspections and precautionary blackouts on dry and windy days.
These implementations would be especially helpful, if they prove effective, because state investigators ruled Camp Fire — the worst fire in state history — as PG&E’s fault. The fire killed 85 people in Northern California last year. According to an NBC News article, not only was the fire the worst in California’s history, but it also was the worst natural disaster in the world last year.
It’s hard for all of the equipment used by PG&E in the state to be replaced, because of costs, but something needs to be done to make sure that another disaster like the Camp Fire doesn’t occur.