Chico DSA Statement: The Camp Fire is a Capitalist-Created Disaster

                                                                         Artwork by Morgane Santos

 

The Camp Fire started under conditions of critically high wind, low relative humidity, and dry fuels. Nevertheless, numerous aspects of the fire itself, the response, and the aftermath point to the pressing need to replace the capitalist system with one that is democratically-controlled and run for human needs.

Climate Change

Large fires are documented from the very beginning of recorded history. Since the turn of the 20th century, though, fire size and intensity have steadily climbed. Fire seasons have gotten worse and longer, not just in California but all over the Western US. Fuel conditions in the Camp Fire area are more critical than they were in August and September, the normal peak of the Northern California fire season. The Camp Fire area has received around 1 inch of rain since May 1.

Both our extreme-right wing government and the corporations for whom they govern have stated explicitly that climate change is none of their concern. We must end fossil fuel exploration and development, and retool our infrastructure for green energy, immediately.

For-Profit Utilities

Northern California’s energy is supplied by Pacific Gas & Electric, a government-regulated monopoly. They maintain the dams, power plants, and lines that provide electricity to over 5 million Californians, and the pipelines that supply natural gas to over 4 million. But PG&E’s history of poor maintenance and resistance to life-saving (but monetarily costly) infrastructure improvements has forced Californians to pay a steep price for their utilities:

  • 1999 Pendola Fire: PG&E caused. Burned 12,000 acres of National Forest, including habitat for endangered species. 76 structures destroyed.
  • 2010 San Bruno Gas Explosion: Defective welds cause the failure of a 55-year old pipeline under the city of San Bruno. 8 people are killed.
  • 2017 North Bay Fires: PG&E equipment and infrastructure sparked numerous fires across 8 Northern California Counties, burning over 8,000 structures and killing 44 people.
  • 2018 Camp Fire: Indications so far point to PG&E infrastructure as the cause of the Camp Fire. So farthe town of Paradise has been wiped out, with 7,000 structures destroyed. The death toll is currently 29, but officials are still searching the remnants of cars and homes for human remains. It is both the deadliest and the most destructive fire in California history. PG&E has proven it cannot or will not provide Northern Californians with energy safely. The time has come for the state to take over and reform PG&E.

The Housing Crisis

Just days prior to the start of the Camp Fire, Chico City Council amended language to their recently-passed anti-homeless Sit/Lie ordinance, reinstating it. Now Chico is flooded with refugees from the Camp Fire disaster, and must hypocritically pretend to care for the wellbeing of the displaced. Shelters all over town are overwhelmed, and the night temperatures are dipping into the 30s and 40s, with unhealthy air quality. Housing is a human right, not a commodity — regardless of the cause of one’s displacement, all people deserve a safe place to stay every night.

For-Profit Medicine

This Fall, Enloe Medical Center — a huge complex of medical facilities in Chico — issued notices terminating their contract with Anthem Blue Cross. Chico residents insured with Anthem were directed to go to the nearest medical facility that accepted their insurance: Feather River Hospital in Paradise. In the wake of the annihilation of Paradise, Enloe is now temporarily accepted Anthem Blue Cross policies. The for-profit medical insurance industry is inhumane — it profits from human misery and disease. We desperately need Medicare for All, now!

Mass Incarceration

As on all California fires, CALFIRE has deployed thousands of inmate firefighters, paid mere dollars per day. These men and women volunteer to leave the confines of prison cells to live in “Conservation Camps” throughout the state. They work year-round on projects of all kinds, and in the summer they are the backbone of CALFIRE’s manual fire labor force. These incarcerated workers face brutal choice — work for next to nothing or sit in prison. Upon release they are often blocked from employment by the same agencies that utilized them because of their criminal records.

We must end mass incarceration and the brutal forms of exploitation it perpetuates throughout our society. Please share this statement with your groups and ally organizations, so that we can move forward with political action together.

 

Solidarity,

Democratic Socialists of America​ | ​Chico

Check out Chico DSA’s videos on the Camp Fire here.

***Chico DSA is a very small and very new organization. We greatly appreciate the kindness and direct aid we have been given by our comrades, particularly those in Sacramento and San Francisco DSA chapters. This crisis is still unfolding; several members have been evacuated from their homes, and the potential for new evacuations remains. In light of this extremely dynamic situation, we are trying to act deliberately to find what role we can play in the days and months to follow. We understand that many people want to help immediately, and we greatly appreciate this desire. We are still building the networks of support that will make long-term help effective. Please bear with us as we develop these, and we will push notifications about our plans as soon as they are finalized. Thank you!!***