Wednesday’s ominous dark orange skies came literally on the 10-year anniversary of the San Bruno explosion, a sort of horrible reminder of PG&E’s staying power.
The disorienting dark orange skies all day Wednesday threw off everyone’s sense of time, and of course, every day blurs together indistinctly as we approach the six-month mark of shelter-in-place. So it did escape our notice at the time, but it is a harrowing coincidence, that as KPIX reminds us, the orange-pocalypse of Wednesday also happened to be the 10-year anniversary of the San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people, destroyed 38 homes, and had many of us concluding at the time “Well, this is definitely the end for PG&E.”
For those who did not live in the Bay Area in 2010, the above Youtube KPIX “Chopper 5” news footage shows how at just around 6:30 p.m., September 9, 2010, TV news anchors attempted to describe the huge San Bruno explosion in a sense of confusion themselves, not sure whether there had been a plane crash, a gas station explosion, or a gas pipeline blast. They sift through conflicting evidence from callers and anonymous tips, live on air, as the whole Bay Area glued themselves to televisions at a moment where we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing.
“All of a sudden the house just shook,” survivor Caroline Gray told KPIX. “The fire came up, somebody said, a thousand feet in the air,” remembers resident Charlie Gray.
Within one day, we would learn that the cause was a PG&E gas leak on a major transmission pipe — which residents had already reported, and PG&E had ignored — and the utility would go to its now-familiar pattern of PR damage control and taking years to admit liability, being issued a “record fine” in the billions, but using some fancy lawyering to minimize criminal fines for felonies like manslaughter and obstruction of the investigations.
So yeah, tell me more about how “bad forest management” is causing all these California wildfires.
There is no evidence at the moment that PG&E’s manslaughteringly bad maintenance is responsible for any of the current fires (most of them were observed to be caused by lightning strikes four weeks ago). But looking at the big picture, the utility has been behind fire after fire for now at least a decade. And in what may be a related note, NBC Bay Area points out that the Bay Area-wide Spare the Air alert has now been extended through Friday, marking a record 25 consecutive days the region has been under such an alert.
Related Evergreen Headline: PG&E Just Might Kill Us All [SFist, 2011]
Image: MisterOh via Wikimedia Commons