Several power companies this week shut down power in Northern and Southern California neighborhoods where there’s a high fire risk. Tens of thousands of Californians will be in the dark until midnight on Monday.
It’s an unprecedented move for PG&E. Representatives for the company said customers in San Luis Obispo County should be prepared for the possibility of what they call a ‘public safety shutoff‘ if weather conditions become dangerous enough.
Utility companies and fire crews alike are keeping a close eye on Mother Nature.
“Historically, California has seen some of the most devastating fires in the state in the month of October,” said Chris Elms, Public Information Officer for CAL FIRE. “There’s a lot of grass, a lot of potential. It’s burning better than it was just a few months ago when we had a major siege going on.”
CAL FIRE SLO has increased its staffing amid fire weather warnings in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.
“We’ve staffed our reserve engines, we’ve got three additional engines available, two additional hand crews, and we’ve staffed our water tenders as well as all three of our bulldozers,” Elms said.
Some of last year’s deadly fires were caused by downed power lines and damaged electrical equipment. On Sunday, PG&E shut off power for 60,000 customers in Northern California to reduce the risk of fire. Central Coast residents are asked to have their flashlights ready.
“This is not something that we take lightly, this is only something that would only be done to protect public safety in the event of an extreme weather condition related to wildfire,” said Mark Mesesan, a representative for PG&E.
The mountains of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are at a higher risk of seeing a public safety shut off.
“We have a wildfire support operation center staffed 24/7 up in San Francisco and they’re coordinating 24/7 with our crews in the field that are keeping an eye on these various weather conditions — the dryness, the humidity, all of those factors,” Mesesan said.
Before customers are left in the dark, the company will attempt to warn you.
“We will try to notify people in advance of a public shutoff between one and as many as 48 hours before an event happens,” Mesesan said.
He added that the company will try to notify customers in three phases: 48 hours before electricity is shut off, 24 hours beforehand, and immediately before electricity is shut off. They will communicate via a phone call or text message.
Customers can also sign up for PG&E alerts here.
PG&E officials say residents should have emergency food and water, keep important phone numbers on hand, and have flashlights handy. CAL FIRE urges residents to have an evacuation plan ready to go.