Absence of public investment makes the only option to prevent fires is to cut the light
Obsolete power grid exposes California
The damage is already done. It is a damage that has several levels. First, about two million people who were left without power for at least 24 hours in northern California on October 10. For those who took the worst part, the situation lasted three days. The media were filled with testimonials of people looking for a hotel with light to plug their phones or medical devices on which they depend. The other damage is the long-term political consequences of the disaster of the electrical infrastructure of the first US economy. In the words of the governor, Gavin Newsom, in the midst of the crisis: "We are seeing something of a level that a State should not suffer in the 21st century." But the case is that we have seen it.
California is not any state. In the last five years, it has surpassed Brazil, Russia, Italy, France in wealth and, last year it tied with the United Kingdom to proclaim itself the fifth economy in the world. Its leaders have also found in the attacks of President Donald Trump a good foothold to show off progressive policies and economic figures. But the strong winds of the desert, which extreme the danger of fire at this time of the year, have shown the structural fragility that has left decades of lack of public investment. Sometimes, it points to schools. Sometimes, the intolerable explosion in the number of homeless people. This October, the infrastructure of light.
The expression "third world" has been heard and read this October in California as it is only heard when talking about the homeless. "We are not a third world country," state senator Jerry Hill told ABC television as the crisis began. “We shouldn't have 800,000 people without power possibly for five days. Look at the destruction of business activity, look at the devastation of financial resources (experts valued the possible economic losses up to $ 2.5 billion), and those who are medically dependent and are tied to their homes. ”
A letter sent to The Wall Street Journal by a Sacramento reader used the same expression: "California, like the third world," was titled. “California, which was once the world leader in innovation and the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world, has become a third world state and cannot even provide reliable electrical service to millions of residents ... We must invest billions to correct negligence, but PG&E is broken. The third world state will continue, at least in the near future. ”
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is the largest utility company in the United States by number of customers. It provides electricity and gas to 16 million people in central and northern California. Its cables hang for hundreds of kilometers of roads and forests. The fragility and age of its infrastructure are legendary. The cables of this company, added to the winds and the dryness of this era, have caused the two deadliest fires of this century, that of Santa Rosa in 2017 and that of Paradise in 2018. The company has declared bankruptcy before the possibility of claims that can exceed 30,000 million in compensation.
The company says it has installed hundreds of measuring stations and high definition cameras in its network. Last year, its teams inspected 750,000 light poles near areas with high fire risk, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It is also replacing those posts with more fire resistant ones. They have completed 160 kilometers. But clearly the efforts are insufficient and it is not expensive where the resources will come from to do more. Among the information that the company has given to the judge, he says that he has only completed a 31 of the renewal of posts.