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It’s hard to believe that the wildfires that ravaged the island of Maui in Hawaii happened just a few short months ago in August. I’ll be the first to admit that I quickly became desensitized to this horrific event.
In my defense, I was barely able to process what had happened before I was distracted by Tropical Storm Hilary, an almost-hurricane that narrowly missed California (but pummeled northern Mexico.) Then, a recent fire close near my son’s school reminded me that fire season was about to start in Northern California where we live.
With so much going on weather-wise these days, there’s a lot to process, and I admit I don’t always know where to look.
Recently, the county of Maui filed a lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, claiming the utility company didn’t power down electrical equipment after a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning was issued on Aug. 7. Downed power lines were fully energized and quickly ignited the surrounding dry grass and brush that had been allowed to proliferate.
What these unfortunate plaintiffs are about to go through has striking similarities to what my husband and I experienced when we lost a property to the 2017 Tubb’s Fire in Northern California. Six years later, we are only now receiving restitution from the lawsuit filed against Pacific Gas & Electric Company.
There were times during this process when I complained that everything was taking too long. But then I realized it was because the trustees assigned to oversee payouts were prioritizing families who had lost children. People who had to run for their lives in the dead of night and were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. People who were at death’s door and needed to settle their affairs before they died.
I shudder every time I hear that another utility company is getting sued because they failed to manage vegetation around power lines or upgrade aging equipment. Maybe I’m naïve, but is this really that hard to do? How is this not the first priority of any company?
Climate change is happening faster than we think, and I’ve never been more aware of weather and its effect on my life. And yet, it feels that some industries and companies are asleep at the wheel. It makes me worried that my safety and that of my family is in the hands of someone who cuts corners to save a buck or knock off work early.
If ever there was a time for utilities and tree care companies to stop and reassess their vegetation management plans, it’s right now (pounds table for emphasis.) Because there are a lot of fire alarms ringing, and they’re keeping me up at night.
Yours in safety,