Wildfire danger prompts PG&E to turn off power in Napa, Sonoma counties

PG&E warned residents of Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties on Sunday that the utility was taking the unprecedented step of shutting off power to thousands of customers in an effort to prevent a devastating wildfire. The outages were expected to affect 17,000 customers in Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties and in the following communities: Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Pope Valley and St. Helena. Megan McFarland, a PG&E spokesperson, said the deliberate outages were most likely to happen between 6 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. Monday.

Fires in October of last year devastated parts of Napa and Sonoma Counties. Cal Fire attributed some of the fires to PG&E equipment. The utility says purposely cutting off power reduces the risk of fires from power lines brought down by high winds. A Red Flag warning was in effect for much of Northern California through Monday evening.

“We know that it impacts our customers if we need to proactively shut off the power for safety but just know this is about safety and about keeping our customers safe and that’s our top priority,” McFarland said.

Napa resident Veronica Coffin received the alert on her cell phone Saturday night. “I think it’s a good idea because you never know what the winds might do, they’re getting stronger and stronger,” she said.

Jeanette Shaw, who owns a business in Calistoga, admitted the outages could be inconvenient. “That could be a problem shutting off the power on a maybe for businesses and for people because we can’t function when we don’t have our power,” she said. However, given how devastating last year’s fires were, she said she understands why the utility is taking such precautions. “I’m okay with that,” she said. “Yeah, better safe than sorry.”