AUBURN, Calif. ― Fern Brown, 81, sat in the rear of a tent on the windswept fairgrounds of this historic Gold Rush town, drawing deep breaths through the mouthpiece of a nebulizer plugged into a power strip atop a plastic folding table.
Afflicted for years with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Brown uses the nebulizer twice a day to avoid flare-ups that can be life-threatening. It turns her medicine into a fine mist that she can inhale.
Her machine runs on electricity, and when Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cuts power in the region amid wildfire scares, as it did earlier this week, Brown must scramble to find a place where she can administer her treatment.
She knows the makeshift “resource center” she visited on Tuesday afternoon, one of several set up this week by PG&E, is not a viable long-term fix ― especially now that power outages and the uncertainty that comes with them seem likely to be a more frequent feature of California’s fire season.