The potential for a catastrophic wildfire similar to last year’s Camp Fire, which destroyed the city of Paradise in Butte County, has the state’s largest power company taking a proactive stance, including an informational presentation at Tracy City Hall on Tuesday.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is going into the fire season with plans to shut down parts of the state’s power grid if conditions become so hot and dry that even minor sparks could turn into wildfires.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, reported in May that its investigation into the Camp Fire concluded that PG&E electrical transmission lines ignited vegetation in two different spots on the morning of Nov. 8. Hot, dry conditions and strong winds caused the fire to spread quickly, and it eventually claimed 85 lives, destroyed 18,804 buildings and burned 153,336 acres.
This year PG&E is getting out the word that similar hot and dry conditions could be cause to shut down power lines in high-risk areas.
Dylan George of PG&E’s public affairs office said that a shutdown of the power grid in one area of the state could affect other parts of the state.
“It’s not as likely that (Tracy) would be affected, but they might be,” he said.
George is on the agenda for Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Tracy City Council and will describe PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff program. The utility will keep a close watch on weather conditions, humidity levels, the presence of dry fuel on the ground, and observations of PG&E crews to determine if power lines need to be shut down in high-risk areas.
He said his presentation will take about 20 minutes, not including questions from the council and the public.
City of Tracy spokeswoman Carissa Higginbotham said the city will also outline its plans to notify residents at least a day in advance if a power shutdown is likely, and also to keep essential services going in the event of a power shutdown. Police and fire response and water and sewer service would remain active for 48 hours should PG&E shut down the local power grid, and the city would also provide resource centers with water, electricity and air conditioning.
City Manager Jenny Haruyama spoke to the Tracy City Council about preparing for PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoff program.
She said that communication between the public and PG&E will be critical if a power shutdown is imminent. People should also make sure they know about city services, especially if they would be vulnerable to a health crisis if they lost power to their homes.
“The most important part is the notification, that the public have their information up to date so PG&E can notify them,” she said.
The Tracy City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chamber at Tracy City Hall, 333 Civic Center Drive.