PG&E plans to proactively shut off power when extreme fire danger conditions are present. These events are known as Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS).
Areas that have been determined Elevated or Extreme risk areas for wildfire are more likely to be subject to a PSPS. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has published maps and information on their Fire Safety Rulemaking process.
Because of the interconnectedness of the State’s electrical grid, even those who do not live in designated Elevated or Extreme risk areas may lose power for an extended period.
In a webinar hosted June 26, 2019 PG&E officials noted that weather events requiring proactive power shutoff have historically been, “1 day or less in duration,” but cautioned that California residents should “Be prepared for 48 hour outages, potentially even longer.”
As the Lake County Record-Bee and other outlets have reported, PG&E has publicly stated proactive outages could last as long as 5 days.
Limited daylight hours may present challenges as the fall season progresses, and “Diablo winds,” which are among the factors that could prompt a PSPS affecting Lake County, are historically most common in early summer and fall.
Per PG&E, San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) pioneered the PSPS approach in California, and over time, through enhanced technology and other measures, they have been able to reduce the total impact of PSPS events.
SDG&E has been able to isolate shutoffs to narrower areas than is presently possible with PG&E’s electrical infrastructure. However, SDG&E has yet to be able to entirely eliminate the PSPS as a tool.
PG&E, likewise, hopes to decrease the impact of PSPS events, over time, and they are taking proactive measures in their maintenance work to harden their grid and reduce the need to proactively shut off power. Techniques known to limit fire risk, such as undergrounding of wires, are also being employed in new infrastructure development, when feasible.
When considering turning off electric power lines for public safety, PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Operations Center monitors a set of factors, including (per PG&E):
PG&E PSPS Policies and Procedures
PG&E PSPS Fact Sheet
PG&E PSPS Frequently Asked Questions
California Wildfire Safety Program Preparedness Brochure (June 2019)
PG&E, more information for Spanish speakers
Statewide Fact Sheet (English)
Statewide Fact Sheet (Spanish)