SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — PG&E warned customers across Northern California about a new policy that will cut electricity to certain neighborhoods during extreme fire weather conditions.
The Wildfire Safety Alerts went out to homeowners in high wildfire threat areas to notify them of the policy.
Customers were told to be “prepared” for when the alerts go into effect and the power could be abruptly cut off.
PG&E is talking about using these pre-emptive power outages specifically during the threat of wildfires like the ones that destroyed nearly a quarter of a million acres in the north bay last October.
PG&E has now been blamed for some of those fires. 90,000 people were evacuated and more than 40 people died.
PG&E says it knows the importance of power and won’t pull the plug lightly.
“This is something we would do as a last resort. We know how much our customers value electricity. We know how important it is to them, and we certainly pledge to give as much notice as we can,” said PG&E spokesman Matt Naumann.
PG&E says customers must keep their contact information up to date for emergency texts, emails, and phone calls in order to be notified of any planned outages.
“The intention is to give customers a 48-hour notice that this might be coming, come back again at 24 hours that it might be coming and tell them officially that it’s going to happen about 4 to 6 hours ahead of time,” he said.
Southern California Edison has a similar program in place.
Those customers live in zones designated as Tier 3, or the highest fire risk by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Those areas include Amador County through El Dorado Hills and up through Placer County. It also includes large swaths of Napa and Sonoma counties.
PG&E customers we spoke with generally supported the plan, even with the potential to be in the dark and inconvenienced.
“I think if they’re proactively looking for a solution and looking ahead of something that could be hazardous or something that’s not good for the community, I think that’s pretty good,” said one customer.
The announcement comes on the heels of last week’s Cal Fire report that tied PG&E to a dozen of the Wine Country wildfires.
The report noted that trees and branches came into contact with power lines during the extreme weather event, sparking the blazes last October.
That conclusion opened PG&E to lawsuits and potential damages in the billions of dollars.
Cal Fire said it found evidence of potential violations of state law. It has turned its finding over to county district attorneys’ offices, who will decide about filing charges.