P91012KWarnings were broadcast in local news for a few days prior. Because of the extreme potential for catastrophic forest fires, electrical service was to be disabled to our region, and large areas of California. Weather was predicted to be warm, windy and dry (with minimal humidity). Such conditions are exactly what cause fires to spread so explosively through the overgrown forests.

The potential for sparks from electrical cables, especially as debris gets blown onto to them, was why the electricity needed to be disabled. Supposedly, it is more likely for fires to be started by sparks from utility cables than by sparks from the many generators and barbecues that compensate for a lack of electricity. These considerations are taken very seriously in this region.

There are many reasons why the local forests are more combustible than they would naturally be. The less combustible redwood forests were clear cut harvested about a century ago, which stimulated a proliferation of more combustible vegetation. Containment of fires since then has allowed an accumulation of combustible vegetation, but inhibited growth of fresher vegetation.

Regardless, many of us had our doubts about the necessity of the outages, which were actually delayed as the forecast weather was slow to develop. Tuesday happened to be one of the most humid days of summer, and might have been the most humid. It was not particularly warm, and was actually relatively cool. Wind was strangely lacking. The weather was really quite bland.

When this picture was taken early Wednesday morning, the street lamp was still on. Dew condensed on the parked car below as the weather cooled overnight. There was no breeze to dry it. The planned outage was delayed for a while, but eventually happened at about 10:30 that night, and stayed out for most of Thursday. It got a bit warmer and drier, but not like predicted.

Most of us accepted it as part of living in such a forested region. A few were annoyed by the associated inconveniences, particularly since it all seemed to be unnecessary. However, what few of us at lower elevations and in town were aware of was that there really were somewhat powerful winds at higher elevations near the summit, and that humidity had dropped significantly.

After electrical service was restored, we could see news coverage of the Saddleridge Fire in Los Angeles County. Unfortunately, fire is a part of nature here. The forests and ecosystems are designed for it. This was the first planned electrical outage here, but will not likely be the last. Those who appreciate living here, and know how the ecosystem works, will be willing to adapt.

21 thoughts on “Electrical Outage

  1. That’s a good sign that your power is back on — hopefully the winds are calming down today and will not return this year! I’ve done a couple of posts about what happens when the power lines spark (that is the probable cause of the Saddleridge Fire in northwestern LA County).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The complaints sort of annoy me. I know it is inconvenient, but as an arborist, I also know what those who manage the electrical cables contend with. (Actually, I don’t know, but I can imagine that it is far more extensive that what my colleagues contend with.) Most of the complaint are from those who have not been here long, and want the electricity to be as reliable as it was in the urban places they came from.

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  2. I’ve been following the situation, and hoping for the best. There’s no question that fire is more frequent now, but there’s no single cause. Increased population density, building patterns, changes in the climate, and aging infrastructure all play a role — although even in the 1970s, a certain utility company already had a bit of a reputation for being less than attentive to their responsibilities when it came to hardening their systems: at least, as I remember. Were people teasing when they referred to Pacific Graft & Extortion? I wasn’t sure, but I heard the phrase over and over.

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    1. I do not now if they were teasing or not. I have not heard it. Even though the outages were an inconvenience to us, they were less inconvenient than a forest fire. If people do not like what the electrical provider does, they should not rely on them, but instead figure out how to generate their own electricity. Of course, that is too much work for those who complain the most. On my other blog at feltonleague.com, I mentioned within the context of one of the articles that someone who claimed to be concerned that homeless encampments were a fire hazard ‘fixed’ the problem but soaking one of the campsites with gasoline and incinerating it, right there in the combustible forest.

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  3. Gah — and tonight the CEO of PG&E apologized for having a company party just before the first shutdown, which was also the 2nd anniversary of the beginning of the large fire that triggered the shutdown policy!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Why apologize? We celebrated a ‘company breakfast’ earlier this morning, and then went to work. PG&E is a much larger group that must have planned their party farther in advance than we did. They certainly did not plan for it to coincide with the shutdown. (I think if I were planning such an event, I would have avoided the date of the anniversary of the beginning of a historic fire, but that was not likely a concern prior to the shutdown.)

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      1. Yes, and it is difficult to cancel plans for a large group, too. I think there’s a concern about the optics of a Bankrupt power company having a large party, scheduling it on the anniversary of a historic fire, and scheduling it during a known season of potential fires and/or shutdowns. I agree with you that those who complain should consider what they can to do mitigate the inconvenience for themselves, as well as the fact that there are others whose situation is likely much worse than theirs. From So Cal, I appreciate that PG&E is attempting to reduce the likelihood of starting fires — it makes a difference, too, that they are already bankrupt and cannot sustain further liability for fire damage.

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      2. If I could, I would disconnect from PG&E completely. My last account with them was closed in August of 2006. There is electricity here, but this is not my home. I have nothing against them, but I would prefer to do without electricity. Without their electricity, I could only complain about them if their cables start a fire.

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    1. Forest fires are a serious issue here. Redwood forests are not naturally as combustible as other forests are, but became more combustible after clear cut harvesting allowed other species to encroach. Because so many of us live here now, allowing the forests to burn is no longer an option.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad that you are safe and have your power back. This raises lots of public policy questions, for example should forest fires be allowed to burn periodically to reduce the amount of combustible fuel? Of course, then people would be outraged that the forest has been “ruined”, even if temporarily.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We can not allow the forest to burn because so many of us live here. However, we need to manage it better so that fires do not spread as catastrophically as they now do. The main problem is fake environmentalism that wants the forest to be off limits. Because our region had been clear cut harvested, it is not in a natural state, and is much more combustible than it should be. Removing some of the trees that do not belong here would accelerate the rate of recovery. Because single redwood trees that were harvested a century ago regenerated with multiple trunks, some of the trunks must be harvested, not just for lumber, but to promote the health of the remaining trees. The forests here are unnaturally crowded with fuel. So-called ‘environmentalists’ want to keep it that way.

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