San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) is being unjustly blamed regarding the 2007 fires. In their inimitable fashion, the California State utility regulators made things worse for SDG&E this week by rejecting the request to recover uninsured 2007 wildfire costs from utility customers. Give me a break! SDG&E is not responsible, no matter what the paper-pushers say.
I think we should order all the bureaucrats, commissioners, regulators, the "investigators," and the media who blamed SDG&E for the 2007 fire to create a fire fund and donate the money to SDG&E for the wildfire costs. Like errant drivers running stop lights, they should also be required to take a remedial class from me about the cause of fires in Southern California before they go fixing blame.
What do I know about fires? With three years (1978-80) of “red” cards qualifying me as a Class II Fire Information Officer (FIO) for the Cleveland National Forest and experience bringing reporters to the fire line, I know a thing or two about fire fighting. However, since those days an "interagency" bureaucracy was formed which took over and skewed so many things related to fire suppression. Prior to the takeover, there weren’t political problems with fire suppression. The respective federal, state, county and local fire departments took care of their own areas, maintaining land to reduce fire hazards. No one would have ever made SDG&E liable for a seasonal wildfire caused by weather conditions.
Back then we had an incredible maverick, Fire Management Officer Myron Lee (affectionately known as the “Fire God”) who knew how to contain fires and work with other agencies as needed. The Forest Service had employees at the Ramona Airport ready to fill aircraft with retardant and fly aircraft to fires on a moment’s notice. There was no humungous, lumbering political machine to come up with a group decision on when and where to dump retardant. There was no leader patting himself on the back and telling the media how he and his firefighters did a fantastic job when they didn’t. In those days there wasn’t time in the middle of a fire to do anything but work at suppressing it. FIOs like myself, not some highly paid bureaucrat, kept the media informed.
It appears that the leaders of fire suppression in our county no longer recognize the true causes of our wild fires. They don't seem to realize that the 2007 fire was caused by drought, hot weather and strong Santa Ana winds. As a Fire Information Officer I could have simply explained to them about the unusually hazardous conditions that existed in the 2007 fire season - weather and "fire fuel" conditions. Live fuel, that is the vegetation, had moisture levels across the entire state which were the lowest ever recorded due to historically little rainfall and minimal mountain snow pack. Low "live fuel moistures" and heavier than normal dead fuel accumulations under stressed vegetation can and did cause explosive fire behavior during the month of October 2007.
Oh, the modern fire suppression folks should also be made aware of the fact that the homes built in canyons and on hillsides surrounded by brush and forest added to the problems. In addition, modern fire suppression bureaucrats failed to recognize secondary causes of the 2007 fires, including the role transient cooking fires may have played. Instead, they work to save insurance companies and the state money by blaming a thriving company that provides superior and reliable service to its customers such as SDG&E. They allowed their fire investigators to issue reports with hundreds of photographs, witness statements and physical evidence, to support their findings that concealed the true causes for the fires.
And in case you didn’t know, to add fuel to the SDG&E accusation fire, there was a 2009 agreement imposed on SDG&E to pay $14.4 million to the California’s general fund, that bottomless pit of disappearing taxpayer money. It seems SDG&E may have paid the extortion to settle accusations about “shoddy maintenance” leading to the blaze.
If we don’t support SDG&E on this issue, who is going to be financially responsible the next time we have a catastrophic fire? I bet if SDG&E turns its power off to prevent being blamed for a fire each time one occurs, bureaucrats and their prostitute media would hold our utility company responsible for the death of people because they didn’t have refrigeration or air conditioning on a hot day.
What are the bureaucrats thinking? Maybe they think that SDG&E and other investor-owned electric utilities can be turned into underwriters for fire insurance or for state financing.
Please don’t blame the power company for any fire unless it is clearly responsible. I strongly believe that SDG&E does care about fire prevention and is not responsible for this one.