The law says that starting a wildfire is a crime in California, if done with “conscious disregard of substantial and unjustifiable risk.”
California has seven years of drought, the native vegetation is dry, easily flammable brush and typical Santa Ana winds are extremely strong, dry, so they kindle and propel fires. In these conditions, the only sane way to run power cables is underground, where they would not be affected by strong winds, could not tear, would not cause sparks to fly and cause fires.
However, the power companies continue to insist on the cheaper, aboveground cables. To make matters worse, they run them on the cheapest possible poles made out of wood, which burn and then cause the cables to lie on the ground.
Fire engines have strict orders not to cross cables that lie on the ground, so whole neighborhoods have burned down, because the wooden power poles had burned and the downed cables scared off the fire department. I believe this is “conscious disregard of substantial and unjustifiable risk” and therefore a crime.
The underground electric cable was invented in 1883 by a partner of Edison. Most of Europe put its utilities underground in the 1920-50s.
In the entire 30 years I lived in Germany with underground utilities, I never experienced a single power outage. In the following 20 years living on Coastline Drive, there’s been about one a month.
It’s time California puts its power cables underground. At the very minimum, the cables for street lights along PCH have to be underground, so downed cables cannot block street access for fire engines anymore.
And the cables through highly flammable canyons must be underground. There cannot be any more wooden power poles. Yes, that would cost money, but these recurring fires cost billions, too.
Property values would increase if beautiful ocean views would not be marred by ugly power cables and poles. Fire insurance would be lowered through diminished fire hazard. Most importantly: Our homes and lives would be safer.
We also need bigger water tanks and more firefighters. We need patrolling drones and more aircraft that can drop water. Nine of the 20 most destructive fires in the recorded history of California have taken place since 2010, a pace that is only accelerating.
We need to take control of our utilities, subsidize alternative energies. In the cold, rainy Black Forest, a whole town has gone completely off the grid with the help of solar panels. Why can we not do that in wealthy, sunny California?
We urgently need to take charge of our utilities and our safety. Instead of Paradise in flames, we could have a true slice of Heaven.
I read with interest “Rainy Week in Pacific Palisades Begins with Rare Hailstorm” in the January 24 edition of the Post.
While hailstorms are not a common occurrence in Southern California (including Pacific Palisades), they are not really that rare either. Virtually every winter during the passage of active cold fronts, there is a period of heavy rain and a brief period of small pea-sized hail.
Hail is a possibility with every thunderstorm, and even in summer, when some tropical moisture finds its way into Southern California, hail may occur along with large-drop rainfall when thunderstorms form or drift over us.
We have gotten used to the theme that the weather is changing drastically, but hail has been occurring in Southern California since 1959 when I first arrived from New York, and obviously, well before that.
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
I was particularly pleased to read your coverage of two items in particular in the January 24 edition of the Post.
First, the Pali Spelling Bee. Thank you for publicizing and encouraging the hard work of students who make a point of learning our eccentric and expressive English language vocabulary in depth. May they all become journalists and authors!
Second, thank you for publishing Elizabeth Morgan’s letter about “Steadfast.” I don’t know how many Palisades residents share Ms. Morgan’s sentiments, but I definitely do, and it was gratifying to see her eloquent letter in the Post.
I find the statue to be deeply offensive on a multitude of levels, in addition to being uniquely unsightly. I would dearly love to see it removed.
Perhaps, if enough people express their displeasure, it can be replaced with something that better expresses the Palisades spirit of community and inclusion.