PG&E cuts power during shelter-in-place to Marin customers to prevent wildfires

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Hunkering down at home full-time is already difficult. Now imagine doing it without electricity... No access to technology to work from home or distance learn, or even power to keep for your stocked fridge and freezer cold.

PG&E customers throughout the Bay Area are dealing with just that.

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"I've spent many many hours on the phone with PG&E trying to talk to somebody with some authority over these decisions, which is essentially impossible," said Mill Valley resident, Ron McClain.

PG&E cut the power to McClain's home four times at the end of March.

He and his significant other, were trying to work from home during the shelter-in-place, but without electricity they couldn't charge their laptops and cell phones, so they used vacation time to sit at home in the dark.

"The frustration level is very very high and I think a lot of the people around here are heavily affected. People could lose their jobs if they can't work remotely."

It's possible they will lose power again Thursday and Friday.

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PG&E sent letters saying they were performing essential wildfire safety work from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

But McClain says repairing the power poles usually takes longer.

"Some days, it's been off until 9:30, 10 o'clock at night."

PG&E says they have 19 outages planned in Marin County through the end of April, affecting 600 homes.

Most of the outages will be in Mill Valley, but about 200 customers in Novato, San Rafael, and Corte Madera will also be affected.

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"We get a phone call I think almost every day about changing it for the following day," said Kitt Weagant.

Kitt and her husband Warren are not alone in their confusion about the timing of the outages. They have received multiple letters and phone calls confirming and then canceling service interruptions.

Earlier this week, they watched PG&E workers perform maintenance on energized wires outside their Marin Drive house, which PG&E does to avoid shutting off power.

"This is the right time to prevent fires, it is the right time to do this, but they could have done it all winter really, instead of right now when we are locked down," said Kitt.

Of course PG&E didn't know there was going to be pandemic, but they do know that wildfire season is fast approaching.

In a statement, PG&E said:
"The work going on in high fire-threat areas of Marin County is associated with our Wildfire Mitigation Plan and work to further our preparedness for Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), as directed by, Cal OES, CAL FIRE, and CPUC. We understand the impacts of a service interruption given the current stay-at-home orders for our communities, and we apologize for any disruption or hardship these outages may cause. We are installing temporary generation to minimize impacts to customers where it is safe to do so."

PG&E also says they have delayed some work in order to maintain "the reserve workforce" to keep up reliable service during the COVID pandemic.

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