The Latest: California names director for wildfire safety

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on a massive power shut-off last week in Northern California (all times local):

4:45 p.m.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has named the first director of a new Wildfire Safety Division.

Newsom said Friday that Caroline Thomas Jacobs will head the new division under the state's utility regulator. It comes as Pacific Gas & Electric faces scrutiny over its recent decision to shut off power to 700,000 customers because of wildfire threats.

The Wildfire Safety Division was created earlier this year. It's tasked with overseeing utilities' safety plans. California officials have found utility equipment to be the cause of some major wildfires.

Thomas Jacobs has worked in emergency services for the state since 2014.

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3:15 p.m.

California's top utilities regulator says she's astounded by the lack of basic preparation Pacific Gas & Electric officials took in readying for a pre-emptive power shut-off that affected more than 2 million people.

California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer said at an emergency meeting Friday that the utility failed on so many levels on simple matters.

PG&E shut off power to 700,000 customer accounts as a wildfire prevention method. Customers complained of overloaded call centers and a website that crashed throughout the Oct. 9 event.

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Local officials said they were left in the dark as well.

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2:07 p.m.

The chief executive of California's largest utility says it will take about a decade for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to get to the point where widespread safety outages are not necessary when fire danger is high.

PG&E Corp. CEO Bill Johnson told state regulators Friday he expects the utility to get better with each new pre-emptive outage as it works to upgrade its equipment so blackouts affect fewer people.

Appearing before an emergency meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission, Johnson said the Oct. 9 outage was the right call but said the utility could have done much better executing it.

PG&E shut off power to more than 2 million people last week because of fears that dangerous winds could knock down utility equipment and spark wildfires.

Customers complained of overloaded call centers and a crashing website that made getting information difficult.

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12:15 a.m.

Top executives of California's largest utility are expected at an emergency meeting Friday to answer questions by state regulators about a massive pre-emptive power shutdown last week that has been criticized as poorly executed and unacceptable.

The meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco comes as outrage grows against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The utility cut off power to more than 2 million people in northern and central California Oct. 9, saying that high wind forecasts could have damaged equipment and sparked wildfires.

In a letter to PG&E chief executive Bill Johnson issued earlier this week, commission President Marybel Batjer scolded the utility for an "unacceptable situation" and ordered a series of corrective actions, including a goal of restoring power within 12 hours, not the utility's current 48-hour goal.

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