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It's always sunny in Pompei

Susan Estrich on

You close the windows. Turn on the air, if you have it. Check the live maps. Twitter. Figure out how to make your smart TV just a television. Text whoever you need to check on or reassure. Cancel any long drives you don't have to make.

It's a fire day in California.

As I used to reassure my mother, I live on a regular street. There is no brush here. Our houses are bolted for earthquakes, our roofs are fire resistant, and the only reason I know where most of these places are is because I used to do traffic on talk radio. But you can see the smoke in the distance. And everywhere, this week, you can smell it.

The smell is awful. Scary. Bad for your health. A sign of the future. We should be scared to death, whether we live in the hills or not.

Natural disasters are part of life in California -- the price for welcoming rain because it happens so rarely and taking for granted the return to perfect weather when the earth stops shaking, the mud stops sliding and the fires stop burning.

But this is different. The fire day routines have become just that. I wrote "August" on a check yesterday because it feels like it.

 

Tonight, a good chunk of California will face a weekend without power. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., bankrupt because of past fires and trying to avoid worse ones, is shutting off the transmission lines in high fire areas. The utilities find themselves in the rare position of being criticized both for starting fires and for taking the only steps they can in the middle of crushing dry heat to avoid them.

"It's about dog-eat-dog capitalism meeting climate change. It's about corporate greed meeting climate change," says California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The utilities should be better prepared for this. Put lines in fire country, and you need to secure them. Deal with the trees and the brush. And the legacy of deferred maintenance.

Frankly, that kind of talk is almost a relief: Those are the kinds of problems you can imagine us solving, or at least ameliorating, with better management and regulation.

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Copyright 2019 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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