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Author Topic: Mrs. OLeary and PG&E
Posts: 1880
Post Mrs. OLeary and PG&E
on: November 16, 2018, 20:31

Nearly 50 years ago, country singer Johnny Horton began to sing about historical incidents. His most famous no doubt are "The Battle of New Orleans" and "Sink the Bismarck", though he was one of many who sang "Reuben James". Another that was a favorite of mine in the 60s (a friend had an album of his music) was "Jim Bridger". All are worth listening to, as are many others -- including one that seems appropriate today, "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" about the 1871 Chicago fire. The following lines could just as easily describe events today in several parts of California.

The firemen fought for days on end.
They could fight the fire, but they couldn't fight the wind.
The wind fanned the flames and it started again,
And nobody knew if it ever would end.

So indeed it is in California as several fires are burning with great assistance from severe winds. The winds may be worse than the Windy City.

But of course there are other similarities. The Chicago Fire was later traced to Mrs. O'Leary's barn, though we don't know if it really happened because her cow kicked over a lantern. Something very similar may have happened in the largest of the California fires (the Camp Fire). There's a strong suspicion that sparking electric lines ignited the fire. There are certainly reports of sparking lines, and Pacific Gas and Electric has been blamed for fires before. California even allowed them to issue bonds to pay for a previous disaster than exceeded their resources. We may see the same thing happen this year -- their insurance can only cover a fraction of the existing damage, much less everything else that will happen (including paying for all the growing number of dead -- 71 and counting).

I have no idea if anyone tried to charge Mrs. O'Leary for the Chicago Fire. I somehow doubt she could have paid even a drop in the bucket on all the damage, anyway. And unless she was the mayor's sister (or mother), she wouldn't have been allowed to issue bonds (which she could never have paid back anyway). Time will tell if PG&E can do any better.

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