PG&E cuts power to millions of residents in California

Grace Gremel, Staff Writer

Wildfires in Northern California are not uncommon, and those living in rural areas are aware of the likelihood of fires occurring at any moment.

“We regularly get fires up in the Sierra Foothills,” Melissa Quinn, a survivor of the Camp Fire, said. “We have an amazing fire support system. They’re very good at what they do.”

However, a fire like the 2018 Camp Fire is something that nobody could have prepared for.

“No one expected the speed and wildness of the Camp Fire,” Quinn said. “The speeds of the wind made this fire jump in so many directions all at the same time.”

Killing 86 people and burning 153,336 acres, the fire was due to the electrical malfunction from PG&E equipment, making it the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in California history.

In efforts to prevent its often outdated equipment from starting more fires, PG&E began mass power outages that leftover two million people powerless throughout the state. PG&E claims that these preventive blackouts are now essentially over and that power has been restored. One of the many individuals who was severely impacted by power outages is Shanda McGrew, a 69-year-old resident of Calaveras County.

“My power was [com- pletely] out of a total of 12 days in a 22-day period,” Mc- Grew said. “When the power goes out I have no running water, no fridge, and no internet. The outages are a hardship.”

After businesses had to close and residents had to evacuate, Governor Gavin Newsom had proposed that the state may need to take over the aging utility.

“Well, clearly, the first thing I would think of is that PG&E, over the last hundred years, should have done a much better job maintaining their infrastructure,” Quinn said. “[Power outages] are a bandaid; it’s not a good band-aid.”

According to statements from McGrew, PG&E has gotten better at communicating with and notifying residents, as well as providing for them during the power outages. Regardless of what PG&E does to make outages easier for those who have to experience them, everyone agrees power outages cannot be a permanent solution.

“PG&E did set up community resource centers and

charging stations in different towns, for which I was grateful,” McGrew said. “On the downside, I actually ran out of my heart medication, because CVS was closed due to the outage. That’s scary and wrong.”

During the dry October month, dangerous winds led to red-flag warnings; coupled with transmission issues, wildfires exploded all over California, burning up to 101,000 acres in only three weeks.

“Fires are getting more intense than ever before, and I don’t really blame [PG&E] for the [power outtages], given what happened in Santa Rosa and Paradise, but I wish there were a better way,” Mc- Grew said.

In Sonoma County, the Kincade fire, which began October 23, led to five days of evacuations, eerily reminiscent of the destructive Tubbs fire in 2017. PG&E shut off power to nearly a million customers to prevent downed powerlines or failing equipment from sparking more fires due to high winds.

With the fires fueled by dry, hot winds known as the Santa Anas, perhaps no one author Joan Didion who wrote this in her famous “Santa Ana” essay: “The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”