PG&E says there's evidence power shutoff prevented wildfires

Pacific Gas and Electric says they expect to have power restored by Tuesday night to all customers impacted by the Public Safety Power Shutoff or PSPS that was implemented Sunday as a preventative measure to avoid wildfires during a stretch of dangerous, dry, windy weather.

PG&E operations specialist Mark Quinlan said during an online update that there's evidence the power shutoff may have prevented wildfires. Quinlan showed photos taken by inspectors which depicted twelve incidents of damage to the power lines. Quinlan says each might have been a potential fire disaster, had the wires been live.

"Any one of these damage cases could result in a spark or an arc flash event," said Quinlan.

The utility was prepared Tuesday to work on restoring power to the remaining 189,000 customers without power. The PSPS affected a total of 345,000 customers.

For many businesses and families, the pandemic this year has made the PSPS especially painful.

Moonlight was about the only bright spot in parts of Lafayette Monday night. Traffic lights were not operating on Mount Diablo Avenue.  Some businesses had to shut down because of the outage, losing precious revenue and customers.

"It's been tough. A lot of restaurants closed. Hard to eat." said Grant Hansen, a Moraga resident.

"We're all working from home as you know so it's difficult to navigate not having power," said Gerry Mitchley of Lafayette.

Mitchley said she was relieved to find one of PG&E's 106 community resource centers. She went to the site at Our Savior's Lutheran Church at 1035 Carol Lane in Lafayette. The centers provided charging stations for laptops, tablets, and cell phone batteries. There were also free batteries for medical devices, as well as water, snacks, blankets, and restrooms with social distancing and masks.

"It was great to find a community center that did have something that was still COVID friendly to be able to charge up," said Mitchley, who was wearing a mask at one of the outdoor tents.

PG&E says it has 65 helicopters, one plane and 1,800 ground inspectors checking the lines for safety before power is turned on again.

The utility answered one common question Monday. People in areas with minimal wind might have wondered why they lost power. PG&E says that's because those areas were likely sharing a power line with other areas that did have high wind levels.