SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric says it’s restored power to nearly all the hundreds of thousands of people it blacked out earlier this week.
The state’s largest utility left vast areas of Northern and Central California in the dark this week to keep high winds from damaging electrical equipment and causing wildfires.
PG&E official Mark Quinlan says this time, crews found more than 150 instances of damage, ranging from broken power poles to tree branches flung into the lines. Quinlan says any one could have sparked a devastating wildfire.
PG&E has faced furious criticism for enacting widespread power outages three times this week.
The winds eased Wednesday, and on Thursday PG&E said only about 13,000 people remained without power and they should have electricity back by day’s end.
Students at Blue Oak Elementary School in Cameron Park had their power back on and Thursday received a visit from their governor. Governor Gavin Newsom also used the stop in El Dorado County to once again take aim at PG&E for its preemptive power shutoffs.
“They need to be held to account for exacerbating these conditions that invited us here today,” he said.
Later in the day, PG&E continued what have become daily press conferences regarding the power shutoffs.
“We have mitigated and avoided numerous things that could have been catastrophic fire,” said PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson.
Johnson told reporters the company has spent record amounts of money on fire maintenance, even while in bankruptcy.
Johnson also stuck to his guns, saying climate change is why fire danger is so high, not a lack of the power company’s upkeep in high fire danger areas.
“I think it’s the climate,” Johnson told reporters. “If you were here yesterday, you saw how the winds speeds have increased over the years. The number of dead trees, the amount of fuel on the ground, the humidity, I think that’s the cause.”