If Pacific Gas and Electric Co. was to implement public safety power outages in the wake of destructive wildfires, Lodi and San Joaquin County may be affected.

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday received a report from PG&E and the county’s Office of Emergency Services about the possibility of a public safety power shutoff in the event of extreme weather conditions.

Dylan George, a spokesman for PG&E, said the agency only considered shutting off power in lower voltage lines last year in residential communities such as Arnold, Mi-Wuk Village, Twain Harte and Pinegrove.

Those considerations were the result of the damage caused by the Camp Fire in northeastern Butte County, which destroyed the town of Paradise.

George said this year, the agency will consider expanding the power shutoffs to lower voltage lines in areas such as Jackson, Angels Camp and Sonora, but only if it is absolutely necessary. In addition, the agency is also considering shutting of power to transmission lines.

George said although the fire risk in San Joaquin County is lower than it is in the foothills and Sierra Nevadas, residents should still be prepared for outages.

“There may be transmission sources that feed communities in San Joaquin County that are also linked to lines that travel through high fire threat areas,” he said. “When we do have these events, we try to keep them as small as possible and do what we can to keep an affect to the power grid down. But because the amount of miles these lines travel, sometimes we do have to shut them down beyond the affected areas.”  

The county was not subject to any power shutoffs during last year’s wildfires. However, George said there was a a power shutoff event in October that affected primarily the North Bay and central Sierra regions in October.

The nearest communities to San Joaquin County that experienced outages  were portions of Calaveras, El Dorado and Amador counties, he said. Power was restored to all affected areas in three hours, he said.

Factors from wildfires that drive power shutoffs, he said, include high winds, low humidity and dry ground.

If PG&E were to shut off power in San Joaquin County, George said the agency would notify customers several times.

A first notification would be sent at least 48 hours prior to a shutoff via phone call or text, and a second one would be delivered 24 hours prior.

The agency would send a third notification just before the power is turned off, and a notification updating repair progress would be sent during the shutoff.

A final notification would be sent once power is restored, he said.

George said there are underground transmission lines that travel from substations in San Joaquin County to substations in Calaveras or Tuolumne counties. But if they were shut down, the power would be restored as quickly as possible.

“The potential does exist that we could have a really massive wildfire event where we have to shut down so many transmission lines that it would affect most of the county,” he said. “But a more likely scenario here would be that only a portion of San Joaquin County would be affected during any given event.”

He said the agency always expects to restore power between 24 and 48 hours after an extreme weather event. However, because extreme weather conditions can last hours or even days, George said customers should prepare for power shutoffs to last more than 48 hours.

For more information about the agency’s shutoffs, visit www.tinyurl.com /yxsqemm9.

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