PG&E still examining emergency shut-down protocols

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- PG&E has heard plenty of criticism about its powerlines, lately. The utility company stands accused of starting the North Bay Firestorm last year and the Camp Fire in Butte County this fall.

Customers also upset about PGE cutting the power to its lines to prevent fires from sparking.

RELATED: Calistoga mayor, fire chief say power outages were unnecessary

On Friday, the utility and state heard plenty at a public hearing.

"We're all vulnerable," Calistoga City Manager Dylan Feik told a California Public Utilities Commission Panel.

Feik talked about lessons learned following PG&E's wildfire emergency power shutdown that impacted 60,000 customers, last October.

"It was a difficult decision made early and one that we were not prepared for."

"Was PG&E's solution a problem in its own right?" we asked.

RELATED: Calistoga shaking off effects from precautionary power outage

"In a way, yes," said Feik.

Napa and Lake Counties got hit hard for fears of electrical lines starting fires. The shut-down lasted 48 hours, much of that spent in re-energizing the lines, leading to financial losses and inconveniences across the region.

"I think PG&E has the right intentions," said Yountville Mayor John Dunbar.

But Friday, the utility heard concerns about the shut-offs needing more planning, especially for people with disabilities.

"Wheelchairs, lifts that get people into things. Breathing equipment. Hearing equipment," said Richard Skaff, an activist for the disabled.

PGE says restoring power after a shut-down remains complicated.

"This is about keeping the community safe during extreme weather in high fire threat emergencies," said PGE spokesperson Deanna Contreras.

RELATED: New PG&E policy may cut off electricity to Bay Area customers during high fire danger

PGE has promised to streamline the process.

Before restoring power last October, PGE had to check 3,400 miles of lines, in case something blew down after they closed the power.
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