’Tis the wildfire season

As Sonoma County burns, posh Angelenos flee Getty Fire

This story has been updated and expanded from its print version.

As the year’s awakened wildfire season forced wealthy Southern Californians to flee and a bankrupt private utility sunk another million customers into darkness, Sacramento got off relatively easy—with a highway-closing grass fire and downed tree limbs.

Fires have consumed more than 244,000 acres and destroyed 540 structures this year, according to the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection. One death has also been confirmed.

Of the 50 fires that have broken out just this month, the simmering threats remain the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, which ate up 77,000 acres and stood 30% contained by Wednesday morning, and the Santa Ana-fanned Getty Fire in a posh, populated area of Los Angeles County. While the latter blaze has only charred 740 acres, nearly 7,100 residences stood in its windswept path, which runs south from Mulholland Drive to Sunset Boulevard.

Meanwhile, the city of Sacramento reported that 50 mph gusts snapped branches and lashed a grass fire near Arena Boulevard that closed Interstate 5 and kept firefighters busy for three hours on Sunday.

Over the weekend, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which is desperately trying to avoid adding another destructive wildfire to its debt sheet, killed power for 940,000 customers in northern and central California, and was preparing to do the same to 640,000 residents of the northern Sierras and north coast due to the dry, fast winds.

Which is a reminder that it’s 2019 and PG&E’s best idea is to shut off all the lights and hope climate change doesn’t notice.

Marybel Batjer, the California Public Utilities Commission’s displeased president, responded with a letter requesting an investigation of these “public safety power shutoffs,” prompting state Sen. Bill Dodd to weigh in.

“It’s clear PG&E can’t be trusted with any latitude, and I appreciate President Batjer for initiating an investigation and issuing a ruling to address this critical situation,” the Napa Democrat said in a statement. “We need robust oversight, regulation and enforcement to ensure public safety.”