UPDATED 2:25 PM PST – Friday, October 11, 2019
Multiple fires tore through Southern California on the same day the state’s largest energy companies cut power to thousands of residents. These planned outages were announced on Wednesday following a red flag warning.
Dry heat and high temperatures have increased the risk of fire throughout California over the past few days. Multiple major utility companies attempted to temporarily shut off electricity as a precautionary measure.
Calimesa was on the list of neighborhoods where an outage was scheduled to happen, but the shutoff didn’t come soon enough. Thursday afternoon, a large brush fire ravaged Calimesa in Riverside County after a garbage truck dumped burning trash near a mobile home park. The fire destroyed about 70 homes in the area and damaged 16 others.
There were also several fires around Los Angeles County, including one in Sylmar that threatened homes and prompted evacuations. The fire was first reported Thursday night at around 9p.m. close to the 210 freeway. Residents were evacuated about an hour later.
Earlier that same day, Governor Gavin Newsom criticized Pacific Gas and Electric, calling them greedy for not taking earlier precautions which would have made the shutdowns unnecessary.
“Its decisions that were not made that have led to this moment in PG&E’s history and the state of California– it is not conditions,” said the governor. “This is not, from my perspective, a climate change story as much as a story about greed and mismanagement over the course of decades.”
The company’s CEO Bill Johnson told reporters Thursday the utility company had a tough decision to make, but still made the right call on safety. He went on to admit the company handled the planned blackouts poorly and that it was simply not prepared to handle the operation.
“Our website crashed several times, our maps are inconsistent…our call centers were overloaded,” said Johnson. “To put it simply, we were not adequately prepared to support the operational event.”
On Thursday, an estimated two million people had their electricity cut by PG&E with hundreds of thousands more people expected to be affected this month. Southern California Edison, Bear Valley Electric Service, and San Diego Gas and Electric may cut of power to tens of thousands more customers living in Southern California.
The shutdowns may cause California businesses to lose millions in revenue, but some have decided to stay open through the outages.
“We may not have A/C going on or anything like that, but the arrest equipment is still working,” said Anytime Fitness manager Levi Meurset. “So we thought, why don’t we just open it for the day and let people come in and work out?”
On average, power outages amount to over $20 billion of lost revenue in the U.S. annually. While weather conditions have improved and power has been restored to some areas, over 100,000 residents are still without power.