PG&E announces wildfire blackout plan

PG&E said it could cut power to more than five million people when the risk of wildfires is high.

Posted: Apr 27, 2019 6:38 PM
Updated: Apr 29, 2019 8:56 AM

UPDATE 1:15 p.m. Sunday, Apr. 28, 2019 - A new video has been added that has more information from PG&E about their power blackout wildfire safety program. According to PG&E, the plan is to include Tier 2 zones in the blackout plan - last year, it was Tier 3 only.

The blackouts will happen on Red Flag Warning days proclaimed by the National Weather Service - when winds are sustained at 25 mph and gusting up to 45 mph or higher, humidity below twenty percent and dry fuel and soil conditions - plus they'll have on-the-ground oversight by their wildfire safety teams.

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UPDATE 7 p.m. Saturday, Apr. 27, 2019 - PG&E has issued a response to its proposed wildfire blackout plan: 

PG&E’s most important responsibility is the safety of our customers and the communities we serve. The devastating wildfires of the past two years have made it overwhelmingly clear that we must do more, and with greater urgency, to adapt and address the growing threat of wildfires and extreme weather facing our state. We do not believe the Wall Street Journal article accurately reflects this urgent need for action or the steps that PG&E is taking to help customers and communities prepare for public safety power outages. To help further reduce the risk of wildfires, it will take all of us – civic and community leaders, first responders, state leaders and other energy companies – working together to provide customers and communities with the safest energy possible given California’s rapidly changing environment.

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BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. -- According to the Wall Street Journal, Pacific Gas & Electric says it plans on shutting off the power to more than five million people any time there is a high risk for a fire.

"Shut that power off, why not?' says Dave Sack who lost his home in the Camp Fire. 

He goes on to say "This is a big wake-up to everybody, that we're going to have to get some kind of control on this land so this tragedy never happens again."

PG&E says it can't keep powerlines from sparking a fire and pulling the plug altogether is their best solution -- even if it means some people might not have power for a span of five days.

"I know it probably feels frustrating to a lot of people that they might be out of power, but for me, if I could trade having my house for having my power out for five days or even a month, I would trade it in a heartbeat," said Chelsea Smith. She lost her home during the Camp Fire.

"To me, it's worth it. They're doing it out of protection for people. They're not doing it to be a nuisance. So I support it. I think it’s a good idea," continued Smith.

Action News Now asked CAL FIRE what kind of strain this puts on first responders.  Their response was that you should have a three-day plan for water, food and supplies. 

"Making those plans and talking about it - talking to your neighbors and talking to your family - just being as prepared as you possibly can be so this stuff doesn't catch you by surprise is what you need to do," said CAL FIRE Public Information Officer Rick Carhart.

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