By Chuck Woodbury
How do you live in a place where the electricity to your home or business can be turned off with virtually no warning to you because of high fire danger? That’s what’s happening in California. I strongly suspect the same thing will occur soon in other wildfire-prone states. The fire season nowadays lasts longer than ever before.
Decades ago, when I fought fires near Lake Tahoe for the U.S. Forest Service, the wildfire season typically ended in October, with the first big rain. The Camp Fire in Paradise occurred in November, 2018. More than 300,000 people were forced to evacuate. Nearly 19,000 homes and businesses burned to the ground and 85 people died. The Camp Fire is the subject of a 2019 Netflix documentary titled “Fire in Paradise”.
How does a person today live knowing the same thing could happen to them — or that their utility company could turn off their power whenever the fire danger was high? How about business people, where a power outage for even a few days could mean the difference between profit or going bust? What does a restaurant do with spoiled food? How does a gas station provide gas without electricity to its pumps? How long can a supermarket go without its frozen food spoiling?
Yes, there are backup generators, but few have one.
I spent more than 10 years living in a community near Paradise. Nevada City is high on the danger list for a similar wildfire disaster. I can tell you that if I still lived there I would be seriously considering moving away. (How about you? Please take the survey below.)
My staff and I were talking last week about what would happen if our power were cut off suddenly. We’d find ways to work, but it would be challenging. I imagine if the outage continued those of us in the local area would gather at my motorhome, using my generator for power and to get online with my MiFi card (if the Verizon towers had power).
It would be entirely possible that we could not produce this newsletter, at least with all of its regular features.
One thing I suspect is that a lot of people who do not plan to leave California are seriously thinking of buying an RV as an escape vehicle and backup home should their stick-and-brick model go up in flames. Some, I would guess, are considering an RV as a full-time residence – move it when danger approaches. The people of Paradise and other fire disaster areas who lost their homes but were able to escape with their RVs were lucky, and I know they will tell you that.
If you are one of those people, please leave a comment below with your story. Or email me at chuck (at) RVtravel.com to discuss this. We need to explore this subject in more depth. Nobody expects PG&E and Southern California Edison to stop turning off power. PG&E went bankrupt with $30 billion in liabilities after the Camp Fire and it can’t afford another financial disaster.
I can’t see the end of this. PG&E turned off power to 51,036 homes in 11 counties as recently as Thursday. It will keep happening.
Please take a moment to answer this survey: