PG&E revoked planned outage in Paradise town before breaking out of wildfires
With the onset of autumn as southwesterly winds blew into Northern California last month, Pacific Gas & Electric took an extreme step to avert a reprise of the previous year’s wildfires that burnt thousands of houses in Santa Rosa.
Pacific Gas & Electric, on Oct. 14, stopped power to nearly 60,000 customers in North Bay and Sierra foothills in an attempt to prevent any sparks resulting from downed transmission lines. On Nov. 6, the utility company warned 70,000 of its customers, including the ones in the Butte County’s Paradise town, about possible power outages because of extreme fire hazard conditions and it may shut off power to avoid any fire mishaps. On November 8, the day the blaze started, the utility firm stated that it would not proceed with the outages as weather conditions did not warrant the safety measures.
However, the company did not stop power that day.
Strong winds roared in the Sierra foothills on Nov. 6, resulting in the most destructive wildfires in the history of the western U.S. state that has blazed almost 10,000 houses to the ground, accounting for a minimum 71 deaths and over 1,000 missing.
Even though the cause of the wildfires is yet to be determined, it is suspected that, like most of the campfires in the region, it was caused by transmission lines. The utility company stated that a power line in the region went offline 15 minutes before the first information of the fire.
Just stating that the weather conditions did not warrant a blackout, the company declined to speak on the matter further. The company officials have stated a preemptive shut-off would possibly not have averted the wildfire, even if transmission lines are found to be the cause. The utility does not stop power from power lines that operate at or more than 115 kilovolts.
The company is not being accused of starting a blaze for the first time. It has faced censure and several lawsuits for huge wildfires in the past as well, though not as massive as this one.
Also, the electrical system is under probe as a probable cause of the deadly Woolsey fire in Southern California that razed 800 buildings and accounted for three deaths. Just minutes before the fire broke out, Southern California Edison reported an issue with a circuit in its Chatsworth substation.
- November 21, 2018