Burnin’ Up in Cali

Joan Thyagarajan and Avinash Pandit

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At the time that this news article is being written, thousands of people are forced to leave their homes in the wake of two big fires at both ends of the state, in Northern and Southern California. The Kincade fire, north of San Francisco, has been burning since Oct. 23 with no signs of being contained. Close to 180,000 people have been displaced in Sonoma County and other nearby counties are on high alert warnings. The Getty fire in the Los Angeles area started on Oct. 27 and is wreaking havoc in wealthy neighborhoods and across one of the busiest highways in the world, the 405 freeway.
Extremely dry conditions with high winds have fueled these fires to spread quickly across several acres of land. The risks to people and property are so high that Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in the state.
The Kincade fire has been rampant, being only 5% contained as of Monday, Oct. 28, and has forced thousands of people to evacuate from Sonoma in order to maintain their safety.
It is ironic that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), a leading public utility company that provides natural gas and electric service to millions of Californian homes, has been shutting off power to thousands of residences throughout the month of October to prevent exactly these types of wildfires from happening.
More power outages are planned during the week, affecting homes, schools, businesses and more. Air quality is expected to become worse with smoke released from both fires spreading long distances away from the fires. All this chaos and destruction have people wondering: could PG&E have done more to prevent these fires from happening? Is shutting off power to homes a move that is too little, too late? Is PG&E to be blamed fully for this disaster or is this the new reality that we have to live with — wildfires burning every year — in a world that is seeing extreme effects of climate change and global warming?
Said Sophomore Sooraj, a student that was affected by the power outage in Cupertino, “I didn’t have any dinner that day… and I also had an essay due that day, so my dad came back from his work, picked me up and then brought me back to his workplace so I could turn in my essay.” The result was a large waste of time and massive inconvenience for Sooraj and her family.
The fires in California will continue to rage on, and even though they have not done as much damage as they did last year, the fact is that these immense wildfires are becoming a yearly occurrence here in California. How many times can the citizens of California rebuild their homes? How many times can they forgive PG&E for causing those fires? These questions all need to be answered, but in the meantime, citizens of California will continue to fight the fires and hope that a solution will present itself.