East Bay residents concerned about PG&E wildfire program that could shutoff power

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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PG&E customers in the East Bay are worried about the utility's wildfire safety power shutoff program

LAFAYETTE, Calif. (KGO) -- PG&E customers in the East Bay are worried about the utility's wildfire safety power shutoff program. Some say it may cause more problems than it will prevent.

RELATED: PG&E finds hundreds of safety issues in fire prone areas

Duncan Seibert, the chair of Lafayette's Emergency Preparedness Commission, says he's worried about sick, disabled and elderly people surviving a PG&E power shutoff.

"I'm very concerned about these populations and getting them to safety. If their medical devices are not working, if their oxygen concentrators aren't working, their dialysis machines, so forth, then it can be a life-threatening emergency."

These are Seibert's fears after a PG&E presentation to Lafayette City Council Monday night about their wildfire safety power shutoff program.

After state officials found that PG&E's power lines sparked the deadly 2017 and 2018 fires, PG&E began a program to intentionally cut power to communities in order to reduce the threat of its power lines sparking fires.

RELATED: Inside PG&E's annual shareholders meeting

A few weeks ago, the utility shut off power in the Sierra foothills during high fire danger conditions.

Last October, PG&E shut off power to thousands of customers in Napa County leaving businesses without power. A potentially expensive problem explained Brett Brown who works at the Lafayette Park Hotel.

"A 12-hour outage could result in tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. If it were a 48-hour outage, it could represent hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue."

Tom Guarino is with PGE's public affairs team and says they are working to ensure communities are prepared for the possible outages.

RELATED: PG&E agrees to pay $1 billion to governments for wildfire damages

"We'll go out of our way, even if it means going door to door, household to household, to ensure the safety of our customers."