OAKLAND, California — The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the state regulatory agency that deals with forest fires, reported May 15 that last fall’s Camp Fire that killed at least 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 homes and other buildings was caused by “electrical transmission lines owned and operated” by utility monopoly Pacific Gas & Electric.
PG&E bosses failed to replace a 99-year-old tower after it was determined to be unsafe, didn’t adequately maintain their power lines and the underbrush beneath them, and didn’t shut off electricity when weather conditions warranted on the day of the fire — even though their own protocols required them to do so.
PG&E management filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, saying they faced $30 billion in wildfire liabilities, including $10.5 billion from the Camp Fire. Their track record throwing safety and protection of their customers aside in search of profits has been consistent.
“PG&E should be nationalized and run under workers control. All of their transactions must be made transparent,” Joel Britton, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of San Francisco, said. “That is the only way to enforce safety on the job and prevent PG&E from causing more disasters.”
“Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state legislature’s proposal to replace and break up PG&E won’t solve anything,“ Britton said. “The problem is the profit-driven system of capitalist exploitation that puts making money over the safety of PG&E’s own workers and the lives and property of the people who live in the communities the company serves.”
“PG&E should be held accountable,” Bianca Alvarado, a Militant subscriber who lives in Chico told me on the phone. “Declaring bankruptcy will only mean our rates will go up.”
“Many people moved here after the fire that destroyed Paradise. It is almost impossible to find a home to buy or an apartment to rent,” she said. “There are few jobs and the price of everything like housing has gone up.”
“We need to fight for a federally funded crash program to put people to work at union-scale wages building homes, schools, hospitals and replacing the worn-out power systems and other infrastructure in California and in the United States,” Britton said. “Such a program could put to work all of those from Paradise and neighboring towns who lost everything.”