Notes from the desk of peace activist Polly Mann (b. Nov. 19, 1919)

California Fires

I find that in order to understand the news behind the news I usually have to seek sources beyond the usual sources. Thus, mainstream media too often glosses over information vital for real understanding. The recent fires in California are an example. In November 2018 a spark from a transmission tower operated by the Pacific Gas and Electric company, PG&E, set off a conflagration that destroyed the town of Paradise, Calif. At least 85 people, mostly poor and elderly, were killed; 14,000 homes were obliterated; and all plant life on 240 square miles was burned down. When 2019 rolled around, more fires were generated and PG&E responded by repeatedly shutting off power to millions of people, resulting in the closure of schools, gas stations, food markets, etc. A massive fire erupted in Sonoma County.
Meanwhile the company’s shareholders and investors have prospered greatly, reporting $4.5 billion in dividends. The firefighting state budget has been underfunded. Twenty northern California mayors have demanded that the state take over management of the company. California prison inmates have been used as firefighters. Climate change, rising summer temperatures, and lengthening fire seasons are factors in the growing number and intensity of wildfires. These realities have to be factored in. If California does not address this issue in a meaningful way, then the problem should be assumed by the Congress. A step in that direction has been made in the use of prison inmates as firefighters. Who knows—maybe a class in firefighting in vocational schools?

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