Unexpected Pacific Gas and Electric outages intended to help prevent wildfires are causing problems for west Marin County businesses and residents.
PG&E has increased the sensitivity of sensors on some power lines in high fire threat districts. When the sensors note a disturbance on the line, the power is turned off. While the goal is to help prevent wildfires, even a bird or squirrel on the line could deactivate the power lines — and there’s the rub, said Loring Jones, who has owned the Lagunitas Grocery and Deli in Marin County for three years.
“It’s been happening in the last six weeks. The power would just drop off unexpectedly.”
Every time this happens, Jones has to scramble to move food into the walk-in refrigerator and start up his portable generator.
Jones said his worst fear is food spoiling if a power outage happens in the middle of the night while he’s sleeping, adding:
“It’s the same 740 homes and businesses (in the area) who keep getting the power cut off. … It’s been a rough enough year. The last thing we need is for the power to be cut off unexpectedly.”
Jones said PG&E sent out a postcard in advance “saying they were going to make adjustments,” but no one understood that outages were coming up.
A PG&E spokeswoman said the utility is doing its best to offset negative effects.
Deanna Contreras of PG&E said:
“We recognize the impacts on our customers and we know it is a burden to be without power, and that is why we continue to adjust the sensitivity of these sensors when it is safe to do so. … We have more boots on the ground and helicopters in the air to monitor the power lines. We will continue sending notices to customers about the outages.”
“We are doing this because of the extreme drought and the wildfire conditions we have now. These efforts are an extreme measure in response to those conditions.”
“We recognize that going without power is a hardship for our customers, but we believe it is necessary for safety and to help prevent wildfires.”