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PG&E’s Power Shut Off Affects Thousands of Californians Amid Wild Fire Risk

Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) planned power shutoff is leaving hundreds of thousands of customers without power to avoid sparking wildfires, but Californians are angry as their electricity is intentionally cut off.

This comes following a faulty high-voltage transmission line malfunctioning shortly before the Kincade fire in Sonoma County, which has destroyed 49 structures and only 5% is contained, according to CAL FIRE.

Straight from the horse’s mouth

PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson said:

“[The preliminary disclosure] does not tell us what caused the fire or where it started”  — but the news of PG&E possibly starting another fire sent company shares down on Friday.

And this is not the first time PG&E is under fire (no pun intended) as it reached a settlement of $11 billion from the 2017 wildfires in northern California and the 2018 Camp Fire.  The pair of deadliest wildfires in California history was sparked by a transmission line that failed, killing 85 peoples and destroying thousands of homes.

That’s kind of a lot of fires, PG&E

The company is responsible for 19 fires in 2017 and 2018, killing over 100 people. CEO Johnson says safety is their number one task.

“Our first responsibility at PG&E is to keep everyone safe: our neighbors, their families, communities that we share. And that’s the only reason that we do this, to protect human life,” PG&E President and CEO Bill Johnson said at a news conference Wednesday night.

We understand the hardship caused by these shutoffs and the safety issues that it brings with it, but we also understand the heartbreak and devastation of catastrophic wildfire.

Understandably, Californians are pissed

But many customers are angry after having their power pulled in Central and Northern California.

CEO Johnson said an employee was attacked in Glenn County while the worker was driving a company vehicle when a pellet from a pellet gun hit the front window; the employee wasn’t harmed.

In a statement CEO Johnson said, “Let me say this: there is no justification for this sort of violence. Whenever you see any of our crews anywhere in your community, they’re there to help. They’re specifically there to help you. They’re not anonymous strangers; they’re your neighbors. They’re your friends. Most of our front-line employees live in the communities where they work.”

While the purpose of the power outages is to prevent wildfires there are many drawbacks to extended power outages. A power outage might:

  • Disrupt communications, water, and transportation.
  • Close retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, ATMs, bank and other services.
  • Cause food spoilage and water contamination.
  • Prevent the use of medical devices.

Customers can take a few measures in preparing for a power outage by having essentials like an evacuation plan and emergency kit. According to

  • Put together an emergency kit.
  • Put together a household evacuation plan.
  • Sign up for alerts and weather warnings.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery back-up throughout the house.
  • Fill up your gas tank and fill up extra containers with gas.
  • Use a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer for when the power returns (throw out food if it is over 40 degrees).

Customers can also see if their area is affected by checking the PG&E outage map for updates. Or you can type your address on the Potential PSPS address lookup tool. Most outages should last between 24 to 48 hours but can vary, according to PG&E.

So far, a total of 20 counties are affected: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Kern, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama, Humboldt and Yuba.