The Pacific Gas and Electricity Company Shuts Down Power Lines in Northern California to Prevent Wildfires

Caera Matthews, Staff Writer

Wildfires have torn through California, destroying homes and forests. Recently, a new tactic has been developed to help prevent these fires. Power lines can spark and cause fires. After the news that powerful winds will be sweeping across Northern California, The Pacific Gas and Electricity Company(PG&E) has decided to turn off the electricity to 940,000 homes and businesses to prevent wildfires. 

As can be anticipated, these planned blackouts have disrupted the lives of millions in California. Homeowners have complained about the difficulties caused by power outages, such as slower calls to safety officials and multiple car accidents. Traffic lights without power have caused accidents. People have been told to treat these lights as four-way stops. The issue of hospitals and nursing homes not having electricity is also prevalent. PG&E has been unable to confirm whether the care facilities in question are going to be affected. Though many of these facilities have backup generators, it is also nerve-racking when machines needed to provide care can be shut down. Worried customers took their issues to PG&E’s website but found that traffic on the site had shut it down. 

Outrage from homeowners has been met with the promise of safety. PG&E has responded to these claims by saying that the shutdown of their equipment is critical to preventing fires. Officials have encouraged people to heed safety precautions and, if directed, evacuate. 

PG&E equipment has already caused 19 fires in 2017 and 2018, one of these fires destroyed the town of Paradise and the death of 86 people. This year PG&E wants to ensure the safety of its customers even if they have to deal with the backlash from angry consumers. 

It is recommended that affected patrons charge their phones and portable battery packs. Filling gas tanks and preparing emergency kits that contain medical supplies is also a measure that can be taken to equip those in Northern California for blackouts and potential fires.

Blackouts are planned to occur in stages, though the following information is subject to change depending on weather conditions. On October 26th, shutdowns began at 2 pm affecting the following counties: Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, Sierra, Siskiyou, Shasta, Tehama, and Yuba. At 4 pm, the electricity was cut off in Lake, Marin, Mendocino (South), Napa, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo. On the same day at 5 pm, numerous counties were cut off, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, San Benito, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Stanislaus, Alpine, Calaveras, Mariposa and Tuolumne, Humboldt, Mendocino (north) and Trinity. The final stage of shutdowns occurred at 10 am on Sunday, affecting people in Kern County. 

Since wildfire season in California stretches across October and November, blackouts will most likely increase in regularity in the coming months. When the power lines finally are reopened, every inch of the lines must be inspected, which could take several days. Currently, PG&E’s only plan is to shut down their equipment. Until another plan is created, blackouts will continue.