PG&E planned outages may have prevented 56 fires

Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) said its planned power outages from October 9-12 possibly helped prevent 56 fires across northern and central California.

The utility filed the information Wednesday in federal court as part of its required reporting to a judge in its 2010 San Bruno criminal case. 

The Court requested PG&E provide information on "how many trees and limbs fell or blew onto de-engergized lines as well as the number of infrastructure failures that likely would have caused arcing had the lines been energized."

PG&E said its crews conducted a patrol of 25,000 line miles after the four-day outage period. The surveys were conducted to assess whether the lines were safe to re-energize. Crews identified:

  • 74 instances of vegetation contacting a power line
  • Of those, 44 instances likely could have started a fire
  • Of those, 25 instances likely would not have caused sparking (i.e. the line was insulated)
  • 41 instances of equipment damage caused by extreme conditions
  • Of those, 12 instances likely would have caused sparking
  • Of those, 26 instances likely would not have caused sparking 

PG&E identified each instance in two exhibits detailing county and coordinates. 

In court documents, the utility company assured the judge that it intends to continue to work with all key stakeholders to minimize, to the extent possible, the hardship caused by the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). It also acknowledged its impact on millions of people.