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PG&E under fire for fires

But let’s not forget the great work its employees do to keep the lights on

Pacific Gas & Electric announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week as the company faces the potential of billions of dollars of liability in the wake of catastrophic fires that occurred over the past couple of years — most recently the Camp Fire.

Anyone who has driven the Feather River Canyon and witnessed the devastation flanking both sides of the western end can’t help but be haunted by the charred landscape and the burned out vehicles and structures.

But throughout the drive, one is also struck by the sight of the miles and miles of power lines that stretch the length of the canyon, some in remote locations high above the Highway 70 corridor. Those lines are necessary to bring power to us in Plumas County. Looking at the rough terrain, the towering trees and the cliffs of rock, it is actually mind boggling that such infrastructure exists and maintained.

The demand for power in remote locations coupled with a changing climate and jurisdictional land practices — to name just a couple of factors — have rendered the areas where power lines traverse more susceptible to catastrophe. Could PG&E have been more proactive? Could federal, state and private landowners been more proactive? Could better decisions have been made?

No doubt through the ashes and devastation of the Camp and other fires, changes will be made. Closer attention will be paid to how lines are maintained and when power will be cut ahead of dire weather forecasts, of how landowners treat the forests, of how communities provide emergency notifications and exit strategies, of how building codes change to make for more fire resilient structures.

No matter the future of PG&E and any verdicts on its liability, its employees who we see working regularly in our area should not face any outrage from the public. We in this county have always been appreciative of the blue trucks that are among the first to respond when Mother Nature downs trees and takes down the power grid. The workers are out in weather that keeps the rest of us sheltered in our homes. Whether it be through sheets of rain or feet of snow or horrendous winds, the workers brave the elements to get the power turned back on.

And particularly for us here in Plumas County, those blue trucks that are such a familiar sight have often been the first on scene of accidents. Thanks to the quick action of PG&E employees, victims have been helped. They have waded into the frigid waters of the Feather River to rescue motorists. They have rendered aid as the first on scene. They have helped clear scenes and assisted other first responders.

We just want to acknowledge all that they do to keep us safe. The men and women in the blue trucks are good neighbors and we appreciate what they do for us.

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