Calif. power company continues push for preemptive power outage

San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) is continuing to push for permission from the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to shut off power to large areas of San Diego County during periods of high fire danger. To bolster thier case, the company said that during the last five and a half years, their equipment has caused 167 fires, including the Witch Creek, Guejito, and Rico Canyon fires in 2007 that burned over 200,000 acres. Wildfire Today covered this controversial preemptive power outage plan on October 4, 2008.

The areas that could be affected are shown in brown, outlined with a dotted line. Map: San Diego Union-Tribune

The plan would affect up to 150,000 people at a time, shutting off their water, cable, internet, and phone service.

An excerpt from the San Diego Union:

“You could lose your home. If that’s the alternative, a little inconvenience for half a day or a day, that’s not an issue to us,” said Rancho Bernardo resident Jeff Smith.

But others, like his neighbor who also lost her home in the wildfires, disagree.

“I don’t see how that is going to prevent anything they need to make sure that their transformers are really secure and all their equipment is working. I don’t think a power outage is going to prevent a wildfire,” said Lisa Winston.

The Public Utilities Commission will hold two hearings in April to hear public comments about the shut-off plan. The first will be April 7th at the Alpine Community Center and the second will be held April 8th at Harrah’s Rincon Resort and Casino.

A final decision on the safety plan is expected to be made in August before the start of fire season.

As we reported on January 29, 2009:

San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), whose powerlines have been identified by CalFire investigators as causing the devastating Witch and Rice fires that burned large areas of eastern San Diego County in 2007, have said they intend to sue 14 of their customers whose homes burned in the fires. More than 1,100 homes and 197,000 acres burned, but SDG&E claims that the homeowners “failed to maintain property in respect to brush clearance”. The power company’s strategy is a counter suit to offset the suits of their customers who lost their homes.

If SDG&E spent as much energy maintaining their equipment as they do lobbying the PUC and suing their customers, they could eliminate much of the potential to start fires.

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