In an attempt to reduce fire risks posed by power lines and equipment during extreme weather, PG&E has announced a new plan to cut off power in Northern California neighborhoods during times of extreme fire hazard.
The plan has drawn criticism from officials and residents who worry the loss of power during dangerous weather could further threaten public safety. The power cuts would apply to regions the state has designated at high risk for wildfires.
Some worry that a “pre-emptive blackout” could cause medical equipment to malfunction and cut off vital channels of communication in areas with spotty cellular service. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported concerns raised Tuesday after a PG&E presentation at a Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors meeting:
“It’s not just the power lines causing fires but a lot of other factors, and, in fact, cutting power lines exacerbates the danger,” County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty told two PG&E representatives Tuesday following a presentation on the utility’s wildfire safety plan at the board of supervisors meeting.
PG&E says the plan will only apply in extreme circumstances.
“It is really, truly, a last-resort effort, and you’re right, there are tradeoffs," Gregg Lemler, vice president of electric transmission operations at PG&E, said at the meeting.