Residents of Northern California can’t look at wind the same way anymore. It’s not just a normal weather day anymore when they see high winds in the forecast, they’ve been trained to have an almost pavlovian response to it telling them that fires are coming. Because historically, they are.
The cause of some of the largest wildfires in California’s recent history is the same company that they have to trust to prevent them: PG&E: The electric company responsible for the power grid in California. They were responsible for sparking the 2018 Camp fire which killed 85 people, the deadliest wildfire in California’s history. After losing billions of dollars in liability claims, the company is finally trying to stop their part in causing these monumental wildfires. Their solution? Causing mass blackouts in dozen of counties during predictions of high winds.
A good idea in theory, right? No power means no sparks that can ignite the dry Californian landscape and be carried to cities with the high winds. However, the people in these counties feel this cost heavily. Generators are sold out almost everywhere and the lucky few that have them cannot afford the gas it would take to constantly run it. This means that millions of people across Northern California are fucked, to put it simply. Everything in their freezer and fridge is expiring. Gas stations are selling out due to people needing it for their generators, so many cannot commute to work as their cars are empty. People with small businesses have to close their stores without access to power.
It puts another meaning on saying that it is expensive to live in California.
And while PG&E is most definitely to blame for starting some of the worst of these fires, the real deadly factor in this all is climate change. Climate change is making California dryer and harsher which makes the fires burn that much quicker and makes them harder to fight. With the lengthening of Californias dry season comes more and more authorized blackouts. Climate change is costing billions of people in California their incomes along with the added cost of having to throw out and replace all perishable foods in the home.
PG&E needs to be held accountable for both sanctioning these blackouts and starting fires in the first place, but we can’t rely on major corporations to solve the bigger issue. The blackouts in Northern California need to be part of our discussion on climate change. We need to show the costs of global warming not just when the fires start, but what is happening to people too often as a result of trying to prevent them.