Wildfire Could Mean Life or Death

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 3:36 PM PDT
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Wildfire Could Mean Life or Death

North County Times

Biancca Berry is helped into her electric-powered wheelchair by her personal assistant in her bedroom in her Ramona apartment where she sleeps with an electirc-powered respirator she says is critical to her survival.

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Biancca Berry is worried about what will happen if San Diego Gas & Electric Co. pulls the plug on electricity in rural San Diego County to prevent wildfires from igniting in fierce autumn Santa Ana winds, the North County Times reported.

The tiny 29-year-old Ramona woman with bright brown eyes suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, a disease that attacks the muscles. She breathes on her own during the day, but she needs an electrically powered respirator while she sleeps.

"If SDG&E cut the power, I would have no respirator, basically," Berry said in a recent interview at her home.

And, she said, "I'm not the only one up here who is disabled and uses a respirator at night."

Documents filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, which will decide next month whether SDG&E can turn off the power, show that 590 people in the vast rural area targeted for potential outages depend on electrical life-support machines.

SDG&E spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan told the paper that the company realizes its plan would create a hardship for disabled people. She said the utility has attempted to contact every person who depends on a life-support machine within the targeted territory to make sure he or she has a backup plan for when the power goes out.

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