Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

'Unacceptable' power cuts blasted as California fire risk spreads south

Power outages will affect dozens of California counties PG&E Starts Second Round of Power Shutoffs as Blackout Spreads
Deanna Wagner | 11 October, 2019, 16:56

During a press conference Wednesday night, PG&E's vice president for community wildfire safety programs, Sumeet Singh acknowledge the utility could have done more to ensure their transmission lines wouldn't spark wildfires during high fire danger conditions. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January as it faced billions of dollars' worth of possible liabilities stemming from years of devastating fires in Northern California.

On Tuesday, the bankrupt utility company turned off power for roughly 800,000 customers - roughly 2 million individuals - in northern, central and coastal California as a precaution against sparking wildfires amid conditions of extreme wind and dry weather. Pacific time and extended the blackout to 234,000 more customers, said the utility, which was considering a third phase for 4,600 more dwellings and businesses. "It's unacceptable that the region is being forced to endure this level of disruption as the long-term strategy for dealing with the threat of wildfires". PG&E said in a statement that once the weather eases and it is safe to venture out, "crews will begin patrolling power lines, repairing damaged equipment and restoring customers".

Pacific Gas & Electric is unable to say at this point how long the outages will last, but the company is telling people to make plans for living without electricity for up to five days.

Much of northern California, from San Francisco to the OR border, remains under a state "red flag" fire alert, although no major blazes have been reported. PG&E initiated the outages intentionally, fearing that unusually high winds and dry conditions could lead to more drastic wildfires like California has seen the seen the last few years.

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"As soon as the weather passes, PG&E will begin safety inspections with 6,300 field personnel and 45 helicopters standing at the ready once we get the all clear", the utility said in a tweet on Thursday.

"This is not a decision that we take lightly", he said. "We were just left up in the air".

More than 1.5 million people in Northern California are without power, some for a second day, as strong winds sweep through the region. "The cause of the fire has not been determined".

Power lines were blamed for one of the worst fire seasons in 2017 and 2018 after dozens of wildfires across the state burned hundreds of thousands of acres, leaving more than 80 people dead and thousands more homeless. "Whether it's a grid-caused fire, or an ignition from a auto engine, or your lawnmower or something else, those are not places where people should be living and expect all the tax payers of the state to bail them out".