BREAKING NEWS
PG&E warns it could cut power to more than 2 million

PG&E warns it could cut power to more than 2 million people beginning Saturday night

OCT. 25, 2019

HEALDSBURG, Calif. — Pacific Gas & Electric said Friday that it would probably begin cutting off power to 850,000 Northern California customers — more than 2 million people — on Saturday night as historic winds returned to the region.
It would be the largest wind-related blackout yet, affecting 36 counties.

Despite a brief respite from strong winds Friday, firefighters struggled to make progress against a 21,900-acre wildfire in Sonoma County that continued to burn out of control, as even fiercer weekend winds loomed.

The utility said it was aware of safety hazards that Geyserville residents faced as they evacuated their homes and fled from the Kincade fire in the darkness caused by the outages

The Kincade fire has burned 21,900 acres in northern Sonoma County and was only 5% contained as of Friday afternoon. The entire town of Geyserville and vineyards in the region were ordered to evacuate, though some stayed, using generators for power. Fire officials said 49 structures, including 21 homes, were destroyed and the Geysers geothermal facilities run by Calpine Corp. reported some damage.

Evacuation orders were in place for communities north of Healdsburg on Thursday.

(Los Angeles Times)
The cause of the fire was still under investigation, but some suspicion was already turning to transmission lines owned by embattled Pacific Gas & Electric.

PG&E said Thursday that one of its transmission lines experienced problems Wednesday night around the area where the fire broke out.

In a mandatory report sent to the California Public Utilities Commission, the company said one of its workers noticed that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had taped off the area. PG&E said Cal Fire also pointed out a “broken jumper on the same tower.”

PG&E had been shutting off power to residents to avoid fires sparked by electric lines. The company said nearly 28,000 people in Sonoma County, including Geyserville and the surrounding area, lost power when distribution lines were shut off at 3 p.m. Wednesday. The company said transmission lines, which operate at a higher voltage, remained energized at the time the fire started.

Transmission lines generally carry electricity from power plants to substations. Distribution lines deliver power directly to homes and businesses. Jason King, a spokesman for PG&E, said Friday that he did not know whether these transmission lines will be de-energized in the next power shut-off.

By 10 p.m. Thursday, power had been restored to 81% of Sonoma County, but in the vicinity of Geyserville, it remained too unsafe to restore electricity, King said. The utility does not know when Geyserville residents will have power again.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom said PG&E’s greed and mismanagement has contributed to this point in California history, with fires burning across the state and hundreds of thousands left in the dark.

“They simply did not do their jobs,” he said. “It took us decades to get here, but we will get out of this mess. We will do everything in our power to restructure PG&E so they are a completely different entity when they get out of bankruptcy. Mark my words. It is a new day of accountability.”

Newsom announced that the state secured $75 million for areas affected by power shut-offs. Half would be allocated to local governments, with the cities of Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and Oakland receiving $500,000 each. The money can be used to purchase equipment for planned shut-offs, such as generators, fuel storage and other backup energy sources.

This week, the state provided additional resources to assist PG&E in investigating power lines and turning the power back on more quickly, including for aircraft and infrared technology, Newsom said.

On Friday, the difficulty for firefighters battling the Kincade fire would be the dry conditions, said NWS meteorologist Drew Peterson. The humidity levels would hover in the low teens with poor overnight recovery. But winds were much calmer.

“There is going to be minimum risk from wind today,” Peterson said. “Hopefully, they can make some progress. We’ll most likely see the fire spreading once again” Saturday evening, when gusts would reach up to 75 mph.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw gusts between 80 and 85 mph,” in the area of the Kincade fire, Peterson said.

Then on Sunday, conditions are likely to worsen. The winds are expected to head down slope, reaching urban areas as far as Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento. These winds are what brought devastation to rural communities in the foothills of the North Bay hills when fires struck in 2017. The Tubbs fire in Sonoma and Napa counties killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes.

Peterson called the down slope winds “the last punch to the gut” in this wind system.


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Firefighters battle a mulch fire at a nursery along Sierra Highway in Santa Clarita. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

2/42
Ventura County firefighter Zach Ary douses a smoldering residence in Santa Clarita. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

3/42
Firefighters spray water on a home destroyed by the Tick fire in the 29000 block of Sequoia Road in Santa Clarita. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

4/42
A fire crew makes its way down the closed 14 Freeway in Santa Clarita. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

5/42
A house is covered in pink fire retardant on Arches Lane in Santa Clarita. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

6/42
Firefighters work the hills near Santa Clarita, laying containment lines. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

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The closed 14 Freeway in Santa Clarita. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

8/42
Fire retardant covers a home on Arches Lane in Santa Clarita. (KTLA)

9/42
Helicopters make a night drop on the Tick fire burning in the Santa Clarita area early Friday morning. (KTLA)

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Firefighters douse hot spots at two charred homes along Red Wine Road in Geyserville on Friday morning. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

11/42
A charred vehicle sits along Red Wine Road in Geyserville on Friday morning with lights from firefighting vehicles visible in the background. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

12/42
A structure continues to burn after the Kincade fire moved through the Geyserville area. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

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In a long-exposure image, firefighters climb a burned hillside to put out hot spots with a hose line behind homes off Nearview Drive Thursday night. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

14/42
In a long-exposure image, firefighters work behind homes off Nearview Drive. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

15/42
A brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon burns the roof of at least one home in the Castaic area. (KTLA)

16/42
Firefighters with the Los Padres Strike Team monitor flames burning on a hillside off Sierra Highway in Agua Dulce. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

17/42
Firefighters battle a brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the Sepulveda Basin. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

18/42
Santa Monica city firefighters hose down embers from the Tick fire near Agua Dulce. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

19/42
A brush fire burns Thursday in the Castaic area near the Lake Hughes Road exit from Interstate 5. (KTLA)

20/42
David Leventhal monitors flames burning on a hillside near his home in Agua Dulce. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

21/42
A plane drops fire retardant on hillside flames in Agua Dulce. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

22/42
Firefighters battle a brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the Sepulveda Basin. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

23/42
Helicopters fly into the Sepulveda Basin to fill up with water to battle a brush fire Thursday. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

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Firefighters battle a brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the Sepulveda Basin. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

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Firefighters battle a brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the Sepulveda Basin. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

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Firefighters battle a brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the Sepulveda Basin. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

27/42
Firefighters battle a brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the Sepulveda Basin. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

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Firefighters battle a brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the Sepulveda Basin. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

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People leave the Sepulveda Basin as firefighters battle a brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

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Firefighters battle a brush fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the Sepulveda Basin. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

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A building is engulfed in flames at a vineyard during the Kincade fire near Geyserville. (Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

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Charred grapevines are seen after the Kincade fire moved through the Geyserville area. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

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A home burns near a vineyard after the Kincade fire burned through the area in Geyserville. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

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A burned car sits next to a swing after the Kincade fire moved through the area in Geyserville. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images )

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Firefighters confer while battling the Kincade fire near Geyserville. Portions of Northern California remain in the dark after Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to prevent the sparking of wildfires during dry and windy conditions. (Noah Berger / Associated Press)

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A firetruck heads toward flames of the Kincade fire near Geyserville. The fire broke out in spite of rolling blackouts by utility companies in both Northern and Southern California. (Josh Edeleson /AFP/Getty Images)

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Flames approach a vineyard during the Kincade fire near Geyserville, Calif. (Josh Edelson /AFP/Getty Images)

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Embers and smoke spread over a hillside during the Kincade fire near Geyserville, Calif. (Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images)

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High winds fuel the Kincade fire near Geyserville, Calif. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

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Photographers documenting the Kincade fire leave as the fire approaches Geysers Road in Sonoma County. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

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Cows stand on a hill during the Kincade fire in Geyserville, Calif. Fueled by high winds, the fire has burned thousands of acres in a matter of hours and has prompted evacuations in the area. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

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The Kincaide fire burns a hillside in Geyserville, Calif. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images )

PG&E, which has 5.4 million electric customers and provides power to 16 million Californians, was projecting Thursday that it could shut off power across nearly all of its territory in Northern California on Sunday and Monday because of the ferocious gusts.

King acknowledged that many Geyserville residents were forced to evacuate in the darkness because of the public safety power shut-offs and that there’s a possibility for that to occur again this weekend should more fires ignite in public safety power outage zones.

“We want our customers to know we understand this is very impactful and a major inconvenience.” King said. “Again, we only take this step of a public safety power shut-off if it’s absolutely necessary.”

MORE FIRE COVERAGE

Power outages leave those with disabilities especially vulnerable. Help remains a work in a progress

Did PG&E power lines cause the destructive Kincade fire? Here is what we know

Video shows motorists driving through Tick fire flames on 14 Freeway in prelude to a hellish commute
Investigators seek cause of fire in Sepulveda basin
Madonna Tavares, 70, of Geyserville said she could hardly see a foot in front of her because of the thick smoke as she rushed to evacuate from her home. With the power out, she and her husband scrambled in the dark to get dressed, find their two small dogs and jump in their car.

“They shut off the power and we still had a fire,” she said. “I don’t understand it.”

The couple heard news reports about the fire Wednesday evening near the River Rock Casino but said it appeared to have died down by the time they went to sleep around midnight. At 5:30 a.m., they were awakened by a loud bang at the door.

“Get out! Get out!” the Tavareses’ landlord shouted.

Tavares said it wasn’t until she and her husband were safe in the Healdsburg Community Center that she finally broke down in tears.

“I really hope [the house] didn’t burn down,” she said. “We’ve been there four years. We just finished furnishing the place. I painted the whole inside, and we just got it the way we liked. Now the fire will take that away.”

Where Southern California Edison has turned off power to customers
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Phil Willon covers Gov. Gavin Newsom and California politics for the Los Angeles Times.

Alejandra Reyes-Velarde is a Metro reporter
Taryn Luna covers Gov. Gavin Newsom and California politics in Sacramento for the Los Angeles Times.

James Rainey has covered multiple presidential elections, the war in Iraq, the foster care system and the environment. He was part of L.A. Times teams that won Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of wildfires, the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the 1997 North Hollywood shootout. He also reported on the film industry for Variety and on climate change for NBC News.
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Kazan- Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982

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