Pacific Gas and Electric Company earlier this year warned Yuba-Sutter area customers of possible  power shutoffs, should conditions conducive to wildfires threaten the area – dry conditions, high winds, etc.

The company said this week that, to be better prepared, crews will be practicing with how to restore power should there be a mandatory shutoff.

The practice shutoff drills will consist of PG&E crew members being deployed to inspect lines for damage and restore power safely. 

A recent press release from PG&E said they will also travel and hike to remote areas with no vehicle access to ensure lines are safe. 

PG&E started using public safety power shutoffs in 2018 because of what Moreno said was a heightened risk for wild fires. 

“Things have changed in California in recent years. We have longer fire seasons. They’re larger and harder,” Moreno said. “There have been several years of drought which left millions of dry trees in the forest. Throughout the West the risk of fire has increased considerably.”

PG&E equipment was found at fault in devastating wildfires over the last few years, including the Camp Fire in Butte County last November that wiped out the town of Paradise. Since then the company filed for bankruptcy and has been working to upgrade systems and operations.

Moreno said that in the past, power shutoff programs didn’t include larger electric transmission lines, but in 2019 they include all electric distribution services. He said the more familiar the crew is with the power lines and the process to restore power, the smoother things will be in case of a real power shutoff. 

Moreno said in case of an actual power shutoff PG&E will do its best to notify customers at least 48 hours in advance by e-mail, call, text or all three depending on a person’s preference. He said of the some 5.5 million PG&E customers they are missing contact information for 115,000 as of Aug. 15. 

“We’ve sent out postcards to home addresses and social media blasts to gain additional contact information. We have the majority of our customer’s information but we want to be able to notify as many people as possible if a public safety power shutoff happens. We realize people rely on electricity for modern conveniences and medical equipment so we want to give people time to plan on not having electricity or relocate.”

Moreno said he understands why people may get frustrated during a power shutoff, but said they don’t make the decision lightly and that it’s done to protect everyone from wildfires.

 Moreno also said even though there are new measures to shut off power during risky weather conditions, the measure does not detract from PG&E’s responsibility to cut timber and brush from under power lines. 

“We have built a multi-faceted approach. That includes vegetation management, increase distance between tree and power line, working to upgrade electric system and using covered wire and non-wood poles,” Moreno said. 

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