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 When catastrophic bushfires rage—cut off the power?

10.10.19. Anyone in the bushfire business knows that many fires are ignited by falling high voltage wires often brought down by high winds. California is looking at a way to prevent running wildfires that cause high loss of life and property. Such ideas might spread to Australia if it works?
A power company is cutting electricity to around 800,000 homes, businesses and other locations in Northern California, in an attempt to prevent wildfires. Large swathes of the San Francisco Bay Area – though not the city itself – have lost power, angering residents. The region’s utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), has warned the shutdown could last several days.Source: BBC

Northern California hit by mega power cuts over wildfire fears

The company’s transmission lines started the deadliest wildfire in California’s history last year.
With weather forecasts predicting high winds, the move is intended to prevent the risk of fallen power lines igniting more wildfires.
“The conditions are ripe: dry fuel, high winds, warm event. Any spark can create a significant event,” said Ray Riordan, director of the Office of Emergency Management in San Jose, during a press conference on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for the Santa Cruz Mountains, North and East Bay regions until Thursday, warning that conditions could result in “the strongest offshore wind event in the area since the October 2017 North Bay fires”.
As of Wednesday morning, PG&E said around 500,000 customers were without power. Another 200,000 were scheduled to lose power by noon, local time.
The huge “Camp Fire” in the town of Paradise last year burned 150,000 acres and left 86 people dead. An investigation determined that poorly maintained PG&E equipment was to blame for starting the historic blaze.
The firm was also blamed for deadly fires in 2017. Subsequent lawsuits led the publicly traded company to declare bankruptcy in 2019, a process that is still ongoing. PG&E is the sole provider of gas and electricity for much of Northern California, and so the vast majority of consumers in the region do not have an alternative source of power.
“We have experienced an unprecedented fire season the past two years,” said Tamar Sarkissian, a PG&E spokeswoman, speaking to BBC partner CBS News.
“And what we learned from that is that we need to be taking further steps to ensure the safety of our customers and the communities that we serve. Public safety power shut off is one of the many steps that we’re taking.”
PG&E has carried out several planned outages over the course of the past year, though none at the scale of what is scheduled this week.
“None of us are happy about it,” said California governor, Gavin Newsom. “But this is part of something that we knew was likely to occur several months ago, when PG&E finally woke up to their responsibility to keep people safe.”
The outages are expected to affect more than half of the state’s counties.
The warnings stretch north of the San Francisco Bay Area, in areas such as Napa and Sonoma, famed for wine-making. Further south, many cities synonymous with Silicon Valley giants could be affected, such as Cupertino, home to Apple.
Local shops reported an influx of customers buying up supplies for a black out that could, if the weather remains adverse, last for several days.
“The idea of five days without electricity is devastating,” said Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland, but added: “We fully expect that to be a worst-case scenario. This is our first time going through this.”
But websites providing information about the cuts have buckled under heavy traffic loads. Many residents have taken to PG&E’s social media channels to express their frustration.
“This is ridiculous!” wrote Veronica Key.
“You wasted the money you should have been using on safety precautions to give dividends to your stockholders. Now you have to shut down our power like some sort of third world country.
“When you do shut down the power you can’t even get your notification website to work properly! Get it together PG&E! No more rate increases to pay for your incompetence.”
PG&E has opened 28 Community Resource Centers in the region to provide “restrooms, bottled water and electronic-device charging” during daylight hours.
Many schools in the area have told students to stay at home on Wednesday and await further information for the remainder of the week.
Despite widespread frustration, local meteorologist Mike Pechner told CBS the move was warranted.
“It’s not an overreaction at all. As the wind comes in, the wires, of course, oscillate back and forth. If they touch, they start a fire.
“[Cutting power] is taking downed wires and high winds out of the fire equation.”

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • bushwanker 10/10/2019, 7:05 am

    So, when there is a shortage of baseload power due to an over reliance of renewables, the power companies will now blame the blackouts on ‘reducing the fire risk’. Look out South Australia & Victoria this summer.

    • luk1955 10/10/2019, 7:11 am

      The main cause of bushfires is the lack of backburning due to the outrageous influence of green communists who want to destroy the communities of the bush.

      • DT 10/10/2019, 10:47 am

        And councils prohibiting the clearing of fire hazard materials from the ground by farmers, in Western NSW maximum removal 35% a year.

  • Ex ADF 10/10/2019, 9:05 am

    These bushfires are a major issue, and worryingly the blame for many of them lies in brain dead morons with matches. The punishment for these low lifes must be a minimum 20 years in prison, regardless of their age when they commit the crime. There must be a deterrent.

    • DT 10/10/2019, 10:49 am

      QLD Police have indicated that the latest fires and loss of buildings was caused by deliberate fire lighting.

      I wonder if activist groups are playing with fire to support their global warming hoax?

      • Graham Richards 10/10/2019, 2:04 pm

        One can’t put it past them. I hope the AFP are across these possibilities.
        When one of these activists are caught one wonders if excuses will kick off on the mental health level or maybe something to do with martyrdom.??

  • Botswana O'Hooligan 10/10/2019, 3:52 pm

    We recently walked a few national parks in NSW over a three week period and the leaf and dry litter is inches thick in most of them so it is only going to take a match or a lightning bolt. The irony of course is that it is prohibited to remove timber or litter, aboriginals excepted of course.

  • Neville 11/10/2019, 1:48 am

    Article said that PG&E had been whacked with the “blame” for fires in 2017, and 2018. Now, I reckon that infrastructure probably caused SOMEthing, and that money probably WAS sent where it wasn’t fixing and maintaining. However .. I also read between the lines to suggest that this year, PG&E said we ain’t gonna get whacked across the head again .. so sorry residents of the land of fruits and nuts .. power’s off; can’t possibly “cause” a fire THIS year!!

  • Ross herman 11/10/2019, 10:48 am

    I don’t put a lot of faith in coincidences. Cut the power often enough and “I’m outa here” The UN agenda followed religiously by the left, is to keep humans in cities and out of the countryside. The formation of giant National Parks out of State forests will also starve Bush towns out of existence. Same with Heritage areas and Aboriginal land. Electric cars are only good for cities so that’s what you’ll have. Mind you, half our population already want that.

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