How an Australian State Fought Back Against Grid-Sparked Wildfires

9 several years in advance of Paradise, California burned to the ground, a identical tragedy unfolded in Australia. On a searing, windy working day in 2009 that came to be recognized as “Black Saturday,” hundreds of fires erupted in the state of Victoria. A single of the worst razed the bucolic mountain town of Marysville, northeast of Melbourne. And just as sparks from a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) energy line launched the Camp Fireplace that ruined Paradise, Marysville’s undoing started with high-voltage present-day.

In all, the Black Saturday fires killed 173 persons and induced an approximated AUS $four billion ($two.seventy five billion) in problems. Fires begun by energy lines induced 159 of the deaths.

California’s wildfires have “brought it all again,” claims Tony Marxsen, an electrical engineering professor at Monash University in Australia. His dad and mom honeymooned in Marysville. “It was a pretty minimal town nestled up in the hills. To see it ruined was just wrenching,” he recalls.

Marxsen claims faded memories increased Marysville’s loss of life toll. “It had been 26 several years due to the fact Australia’s very last important suite of fatal fires,” he claims. “People had occur to believe that they could defend their property versus a firestorm. Some stayed, and they all died.”

Though they go by various names, California’s wildfires and Victoria’s bushfires are driven by the similar combination of electrical networks and extraordinary weather, stoked by local climate improve. How Victoria responded following the Black Saturday fires—work that continues today—differs noticeably from what is going on in California currently, especially in PG&E’s territory.