Power Shut Down To Curb Wildfire Risk

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Power Shut Down To Curb Wildfire Risk

Branden Leong, Staff Writer

With multiple destructive blazes flaring up in California in recent years, electric companies are taking preemptive measures to prevent wildfire risk. High winds causing downed power lines and vegetation contact with equipment can easily spark fires. Northern California was expecting high winds of 60-70 mph on Oct. 10 and 11.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) implemented the Public Safety Power Shutoff in phases. The first phase began Wednesday morning in Northern California and affected 513,000 homes and businesses, which includes over 1 million people. The second phase began at 8:00 p.m. on the same day and affected over half a million people in parts of San Jose and Santa Cruz. All 9 counties in the San Francisco Bay Area are affected, except for the city and county of San Francisco. PG&E plans to implement a new website for customers to track outage information and updates.

Once dangerous weather conditions subside around Friday afternoon, equipment and power lines will need to be inspected for damage before restoring power. If there’s no damage to the equipment, power can be restored quickly. Areas with damage requiring repair will take longer to restore power.

Parts of Southern California may lose power, too. An article by USA Today stated that “Southern California Edison said it was considering implementing the shutoff plan to cut power to 173,000 customers. San Diego Gas Electric said 30,000 of its customers were put on similar alert.”

Affected residents in Northern California lined up at gas stations and stores to purchase generators, flashlights, batteries, and non-perishable food. Many schools and universities, including University of California, Berkeley and California State University-East Bay, were forced to close, bracing for days without electricity.

There have been mixed feelings about these planned outages. California Governor Gavin Newsom stated these blackouts are necessary. Conversely, Rep. LaMalfa blamed the need for outages on decades of bureaucracies and burdensome regulations utilities face. Meanwhile, residents complained about spoiling food in the days to come. Many had to discard groceries that were just purchased. People with health issues requiring electricity for medical devices also shared concerns regarding how the outages would affect their health. PG&E has opened resource centers for customers to charge electronic devices, get bottled water, and use restrooms. PG&E spokesman Mark Mesesan stated that “it’s more of an in-and-out option. They’re not equipped as a place to stay.”

California is bracing for another severe wildfire season. Wildfire season in California has become year-round, and the need for these blackouts may continue whenever there are gusty winds and low humidity.

Photo courtesy of ABC7NEWS.COM