The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

California Wildfires Likely Started by Downed Power Lines—Again!

Nov 26, 2018

Power outage reports by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison suggest that the two utility companies may be responsible for starting two big wildfires, which have destroyed nearly 20,000 buildings and killed probably hundreds of people (as of Nov. 21, 86 people were confirmed dead, and more than 500 were still missing).

PG&E told state regulators that it detected two outages on the morning of November 8, near the towns of Paradise and Concow in Northern California. California officials have identified both locations as ignition points of the Camp Fire, which largely destroyed both towns and spread out to become the most destructive and deadliest fire known in California history.

On the same day, November 8, Edison reported an outage at 2:22 p.m., just two minutes before the Woolsey Fire in Southern California was first observed.

Both companies have already been implicated in other wildfires in California. Earlier this year, Cal Fire, California’s state agency in charge of fighting wildfires, announced that downed PG&E lines had caused more than a dozen wildfires in October 2017, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. In eight of those cases, Cal Fire says, PG&E should be prosecuted for violating state safety laws. And in October, Edison admitted that it was partially responsible for the 2017 Thomas Fire, one of the largest in California history.

Faced with hundreds of lawsuits by people who lost their homes and loved ones, these huge, investor-owned companies asked the state of California for a bailout–and California politicians promptly obliged. The California legislature, controlled by Democrats, passed a bill that allows utilities to raise rates to pass fire-related legal liabilities on to their customers, and the Democratic governor of California signed it into law last September.

Barely two months later, after this year’s fires, PG&E says it will probably not have the money to cover all the court-mandated damage payments it will likely face–a shameless cue to their loyal servants, the politicians, asking for ANOTHER bailout!

And everything indicates that California officials are getting ready to deliver it again. PG&E stock, which had lost more than half its value in a week after the company’s admission of the two outages, jumped up more than 30 percent after the head of the California Public Utilities Commission said that allowing PG&E to go bankrupt “wouldn’t be good public policy,” and that “legislative action to relieve PG&E’s financial burden” might be necessary. And whatever other “options” some state politicians are suggesting, it all boils down to the state taking over the company at ratepayers’ and taxpayers’ expense, in one form or another.

Never mind that these companies have been neglecting maintenance and preventive measures, such as clearing vegetation around power lines and reinforcing poles, for years, to increase their already big profits. And all these politicians who keep bailing the companies out know this full well–they even included a provision in the recent bailout bill, mandating the state to pay for some of that work, which the companies are legally responsible for doing!

Leaving electricity, which we all need to live, and management of wildfires, in the hands of greedy capitalists and their loyal servants, the politicians, is a deadly threat for the whole society.