The Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) has been hosting a series of wildfire safety meetings across the state this summer. On Thursday night, the company met with Monterey County customers.
PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program launched last year. Since then, the company says it has stepped up efforts to prevent wildfires.
PG&E reps discussed the new program with local residents at the Sunset Center in Carmel Thursday night. About 100 people showed up, including Carmel resident Karen Ferlito.
“One of my questions was who do I contact about a very leaning tree over a high voltage line. And I did get some answers to that tonight, so I'm happy,” says Ferlito.
PG&E says people can call 1-800-PGE-5000 to have someone come out.
Under the Community Wildfire Safety Program, PG&E says it has increased vegetation maintenance around power lines, installed infrared cameras to spot wildfires and added new weather stations. Another component includes increased inspections of their equipment via helicopters, drones and walking inspections.
Carmel Valley resident Doug Halley says he’s seen helicopters flying overhead.
“It's too bad they didn't start something like this 10 or 20 years ago. But it always takes something like that to happen to get government agencies or other big corporations to move usually. So here we are,” says Halley.
The company’s equipment has sparked wildfires in recent years, including the devastating Camp Fire in Butte County, which destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 86 people. That combined with climate change has shifted PG&E’s approach to equipment maintenance, according to PG&E Spokesperson Jeff Smith.
“You know, in the past, we were concerned that if a piece of equipment failed it might cause an outage and we did want to replace equipment before that outage occurred. But now the stakes are even higher,” says Smith.
Part of their new strategy to prevent disasters includes power shutoffs. During periods of low humidity or high winds, PG&E may turn off the electricity. A shutoff could last days.
Carmel resident Jim Burnis says he’s getting ready for a potential loss of power.
“I don't think anyone's really prepared, but we've done enough times where we can get through it. We have solar. We actually installed solar a number of years ago and so I'm looking at a battery backup system,” Burnis says.
PG&E plans to give advance warning of these power shutoffs. You can confirm your contact information on their website to get the alerts.