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Pacific Gas & Electric plans for power shutoffs in north SLO County amid wildfires

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Angel Russell
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PG&E is preparing to shut off power to customers across the Central Coast again this week as the Alisal fire and the potential of other wildfires breaking out continues amid dry and windy conditions.

Pacific Gas & Electric is preparing to shut off power to customers across the Central Coast again this week as the Alisal Fire and the potential of other wildfires breaking out continues amid dry and windy conditions.

PG&E gave warning that another power safety shut-off could happen this week due to the Alisal Fire. With residents in northern SLO County still experiencing ongoing unplanned outages, PG&E held a town hall meeting Tuesday night to discuss the issue.

Mark Quinlan, PG&E’s Vice President of Wildfire Mitigation, said Power Safety Shut-offs (PSPS) are happening more often due to the threat and size of recent wildfires.

“PSPS is a tool that we use as a last resort option," Quinlan said. "We are doing everything we can to mitigate against the chance of ignition.”

While planned outages are occurring, ongoing unplanned outages have been frustrating San Luis Obispo County customers, with some of the outages lasting between six and twenty hours.

Quinlan said the problem arose after PG&E installed their new tripwire safety system, which shuts off power when something comes in contact with the line – such as wind, wildlife, and falling branches.

But while it’s supposed to prevent wildfires, Quinlan said, the number of outages is still unacceptable.

“We understand that, and we own that, we are not here to make excuses," Quinlan said. "We are here to accept that responsibility and accountability for it and talk about what we are doing to fix it.”

Jason Regan, Director of Emergency Management with PG&E, said crews are continuing to fine-tune the tripwire system throughout the area, so when something does hit the wire, it doesn’t shut off the entire circuit.

“We’ve since enabled a different posture, got a little more nimble in our approaches and we were able to isolate these circuits," Regan said. "So what does that do? It minimizes the outage from a customer impact perspective and it also minimizes the patrol length that our co-workers would have to look at.”

For those hoping for reimbursement for fuel to run generators or for spoiled food, PG&E representatives said that while they won’t cover those costs, they are trying to make the planned and unplanned outages shorter in duration.

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