County Supervisor Dianne Jacob urged SDG&E to think twice before shutting off power to properties in the path of the Lilac Fire.
Jacob said power shut-offs can leave rural residents without the electricity they need to pump water from wells. If they don’t have an emergency generator, they won’t have water to protect their property, and fire crews won’t have access to a water source they might need to fight the fire.
“You can't get the well water without electricity, so that could pose an additional danger,” Jacob said this morning. “I hope SDG&E knows what they’re doing. I don’t have a lot of confidence in that, but let’s hope.”
Jacob’s district includes many rural areas that have limited access to utilities. Some have no natural gas service and depend solely on electricity provided by their utility company.
Jacob has criticized SDG&E’s handling of emergency shut-offs and its safety procedures during previous wildfires.
“And I am very, very concerned about the outages that are being done (now) by SDG&E, where it’s cutting off people’s (well) water supplies,” Jacob said today.
SDG&E turns off power to prevent additional fire outbreaks caused when gusty winds break or topple live electrical lines. Those downed power lines can spark additional fires.
The utility said it turned off power to approximately 17,000 customers as of early Friday morning. The utility said it called 170,000 customers to warn them of possible shutoffs, and advised them to have emergency supplies on hand.
SDG&E said current conditions in the area affected by the fire could cause those power outages to last for “several days before (power) can be safely restored.”
A company spokesman told NBC 7, “We’re deeply disappointed by Supervisor Jacob’s comments. (They are) insulting to our hard-working men and women, who are dedicated to delivering safe and reliable energy.”
SDG&E said it set up two “Mobile Command Trailers” in the East County to provide water, wi-fi hot-spot service and device chargers for customers impacted by power cut-offs. Those trailers are located at the Caltrans Park & Ride, 7838 Japatul Valley Road, in Descanso and at Lake Morena Community Park in Campo.
The utility also placed a generator in Julian to provide electricity for 109 customers and power for the community’s Main Street.
As of about 5 p.m. Friday, SDG&E said it has restored power to 9,470 customers. Approximately 7,500 customers remain without power. The utility said it will continue restoring power Saturday morning, as weather conditions allow.