Wind, fire, power Ru­ral Ram­blings

The McLeod River Post - - Points of View - Staff

In Cal­i­for­nia, ma­jor elec­tric­ity and gas sup­plier PG&E is be­ing sued un­der state law for neg­li­gence as the 2018 wild­fire con­di­tions wors­ened. Some of that I’ve read is be­cause of sparks from downed power lines be­cause the power wasn’t turned off and also for not clear­ing trees and veg­e­ta­tion near power lines.

Right in the run up to Christ­mas a pow­er­ful storm howled out of the Pa­cific bring­ing chaos to the south coast of BC from Van­cou­ver Is­land to the Fraser Val­ley. B.C. Hy­dro took days to re­store power as downed trees brought down lines.

The storm was un­usual in its fe­roc­ity with over 100 MPH winds. Where I used to live in the Outer He­brides such storms , in sea­son, are al­most weekly. How­ever, trees are few and far be­tween. I’ve read the pesky Vik­ings were re­spon­si­ble for clear­ing the scrub oak for­est hun­dreds of years ago. It’s very dif­fi­cult now to grow a tree to any size be­cause of the wind.

I di­gress. Back to the point. The ex­cep­tional wild­fires and storms are, gov­ern­ments will say, rare events. I dis­agree. Rare events are be­com­ing more com­mon and we must as­sume a worse case sce­nario. In 2018, a lit­tle over 13,500 square kilo­me­tres of B.C. were rav­aged by wild­fires, there were more fires than on any other year on record. I don’t think it’s go­ing to get any bet­ter and Al­berta needs to take note. We got off light.

First of all, it’s a no brainer not to turn off power and gas sup­plies dur­ing a wild­fire. Rocket sci­ence it is not. As for trees bring­ing down power lines. Let’s look at that. First of all, veg­e­ta­tion and trees should be cleared well away from power lines. I know util­i­ties do clear ar­eas but just look­ing out my win­dow I can see trees that would likely bring down power lines.

The so­lu­tion should be gov­ern­ment man­dated. In the end, I think money will be saved. Two things. One, bury power lines. Sim­ple, ex­pen­sive to be­gin with but you only have to do it once. Start with cities and towns be­fore con­sid­er­ing ma­jor high­way and road routes. Sec­ond, clear the trees and veg­e­ta­tion to a safe dis­tance from power lines in ru­ral ar­eas and keep do­ing it. Again, I would ar­gue that pre­ven­tion will even­tu­ally pay div­i­dends.

Much as I would like it, it’s not go­ing to be vi­able to bury all power lines in ru­ral ar­eas. Maybe gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies for so­lar pan­els for ru­ral prop­er­ties with the op­tion of go­ing off grid dur­ing an out­age? Maybe some prop­er­ties could be self suf­fi­cient and not need power lines at all? At the risk of ir­ri­tat­ing the util­ity com­pa­nies maybe all prop­er­ties could be fit­ted with so­lar pan­els? Just a thought.

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