PG&E Corporation President and CEO Geisha Williams today (Oct. 13) met with local community leaders in Rohnert Park (Sonoma County) at one of the company’s base camps. This site is one of four locations where the company is marshalling crews, restoration supplies, equipment and vehicles to respond to the electric and gas outages from wildfires fueled by intense winds.
Williams shared the status of electric and gas restoration efforts so far, and listened to community leaders who shared their needs and expectations during the process.
“We have been part of these communities for more than 100 years. These people are our friends and neighbors, and we are devastated by what they are going through. We will work shoulder to shoulder with them to restore and rebuild what’s been lost, for as long as it takes,” said Williams.
To support local first responders, PG&E has activated multiple emergency centers, established base camps for its crews in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties, and positioned crews to assess the damage and restore customers’ gas and electric service. PG&E also has activated mutual-aid agreements with other energy companies to bring in additional resources. Crews from five states have temporarily joined PG&E’s workforce to help restore electric and gas service when safe to do so.
On Friday, PG&E continued supporting the hundreds of firefighters battling intense wind-fueled wildfires across Northern California, focusing on customers and public safety. Since Monday, PG&E has restored power to more than 94 percent of homes and businesses that lost power during Sunday’s wind storm. Of the 42,000 gas customers who had service turned off to make the area safe, all but 17,000 have had their service restored. About 2,000 workers continue to restore electric and gas service to every home and business that can receive it.
The powerful winds that swept across PG&E’s service area late Sunday (Oct. 8) and early Monday produced several hours of strong gusts in excess of 60 mph across parts of the North Bay, including gusts up to 79 mph. The onset of these destructive winds quickly dried out the lower levels of the atmosphere, bringing humidity down to below 15 percent, which helped create a favorable situation for rapid fire growth.
Since this event began, PG&E has taken a number of actions in response to the wind-driven wildfires, including the following:
- Restored 94% percent of customers’ homes and businesses that were without power. In total, about 342,000 PG&E electric customers have lost power since the fires began on Sunday night. As of Monday morning (Oct. 16), about 22,000 fire-related outages remained.
- Turned off gas service as a safety precaution to about 42,000 customers’ homes and businesses in communities hard-hit by the fires. PG&E dispatched more than 200 employees to relight pilots in areas where safe to do so. Thus far, 23,000 gas customers have been restored.
- Dispatched more than 4.300 workers, including PG&E employees and mutual-aid crews as part of the response effort. In addition, extra workers from energy companies in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington and New Mexico are assisting PG&E efforts.
- Committed $200,000 toward the North Bay Fire Recovery Fund in partnership with the Redwood Community Credit Union and The Press Democrat. This newly created fund will directly support those impacted by the wildfires in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties.
- Matching donations from its employees to the American Red Cross’ fire response efforts — up to $100,000.
PG&E’s robust vegetation management practices
PG&E manages about 123 million trees on about 2 million properties in our 70,000 square mile service area. Since 2014, in response to the drought, PG&E has added extraordinary measures to our tree maintenance program that prunes or removes about 1.2 million trees each year. These measures include:
- Enhanced vegetation inspection and mitigation
- Wood debris management
- Fuel reduction and emergency response access
- Early detection of wildfires and forest disease and infestation
- Public education and awareness
- Participation in Governor’s Tree Mortality Task Force
PG&E executes a year-round program to perform tree abatement work along our electric transmission and distribution overhead lines. Work includes:
- Foot and aerial patrols, in addition to the use of remote sensing technology, specifically LiDAR Light-detecting and Ranging, to identify trees to be worked.
- Inspecting along power lines in high fire-danger areas twice a year, and some areas as often as four times a year. In 2016, we conducted these additional patrols on 68,000 miles of power line, and in 2017 we expect to patrol 73,000 miles of line a second time.
- In 2016, we removed about 236,000 dead or dying trees, in addition to pruning or removing about 1.2 million trees under the annual program to prevent contact with power lines. This is about seven times more trees removed than our pre-drought three-year average.
- In 2017, we expect to remove about 150,000 dead trees to prevent them from contacting power lines, starting wildfires and other public safety risks.
PG&E commits full cooperation with CPUC and Cal Fire
When allowed access to an affected area, PG&E reports any instances associated with its utility infrastructure, including wires down, broken poles and other impacted facilities as a result of the wildfires to its regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Since Sunday’s windstorm, the company has submitted seven electric incident reports related to damaged facilities to the CPUC. PG&E will continue to support reviews by any relevant regulator or agency.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.