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California utility restores power; wildfires spread

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on October 12, 2019 - Duration: 02:08s

California utility restores power; wildfires spread

California's Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) said it has returned power to nearly all of its residents impacted by a voluntary shutdown, but residents are watching a massive wildfire continued to grow in size.

Conway G.

Gittens reports.

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California utility restores power; wildfires spread

The power is back on in parts of California.

As of late Friday, the state's embattled utility - PG&E had restored power to nearly all of the more than 730,000 homes and workplaces in Northern and Central California impacted by an unprecedented pre-emptive shutdown of all electricity.

Sumeet Singh is Vice President of the company's Asset & Risk Management & Community Wildfire Safety program.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) SUMEET SINGH, VP, PG&E ASSET & RISK MANAGEMENT & COMMUNITY WILDFIRE SAFETY PROGRAM, SAYING: "The number is actually north of 90 percent because our teams are continuing to do the good work out there to continue to minimize the impact to our customers and our communities." The decision to cut power in order to prevent wildfires - as gale-force winds and dry weather pose a critical fire threat - came under harsh criticism from California Governor Gavin Newsom, who called the widespread electricity shutdown "unacceptable." But with a number of wildfires setting the night sky ablaze, including the massive Saddleridge fire raging across some 7,500 acres in Southern California, forcing the evacuation of some 100,000 residents and responsible for at least one death.... PG&E's President and CEO Bill Johnson defended the decision to take power offline.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) PG&E PRESIDENT AND CEO BILL JOHNSON, SAYING: "The winds we experience like the winds happening in Southern California were of such speed that the blew branches and trees into our power lines bringing about this risk of ignition.

If those lines had been energized we'd have the potential of numerous incidents of ignition but thankfully those lines were not energized." Some of the state's most devastating wildfires were sparked in recent years by damage to electrical transmission lines from high winds, which then sparked flames that lit up tinder-dry vegetation and turned into raging infernos.

That has left PG&E potentially on the hook for $30 billion in liabilities - forcing the utility into bankruptcy earlier this year.

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