MANTECA (CBS13) — Manteca isn’t considered at high risk of burning down in a wildfire, but if the weather gets hot and dry enough in the Central Valley or Sierra Foothills, Pacific Gas and Electric Company could temporarily shut off power to the city and its more than 80,000 residents.
PG&E is notifying cities about the possibility now that it has expanded a program to cut power to transmission lines to prevent them from sparking a dangerous wildfire.
One of the cities that recently received a letter is Manteca. On Wednesday, residents responded to the news.
“What I think is difficult is not knowing when and how to prepare,” said Frank Carrera, owner of Frank’s Downtown Café on Maple Avenue.
The café is a popular eatery for breakfast and lunch. On Wednesday morning, Carrera and his employees said they were talking about the potential of losing power.
“The main thing is loss of income, loss of business and most importantly you lose all of your inventory,” he said. “You’d have to throw everything away so that would be a lot of impact for a small business.”
It’s an unlikely, but alarming situation should PG&E have to shut off electricity, because of the threat of a dangerous wildfire or extreme weather hazard.
“Businesses that are open for 24 hours would be the most impacted,” he added.
On Tuesday night, Manteca Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd told city council members the city needs to be ready.
“I want to make sure we can provide all the basic services, you know? Fire, police, water, sewer, those type of services that are really essential to life,” he said.
He said he wanted to address the city council after receiving a letter from PG&E that announced the expansion of its “Public Safety Power Shutdown Program. The program is designed to give the utility company authority to de-energize high voltage transmissions lines like the one investigators say malfunctioned last year; sparking the Camp Fire.
Named after Camp Creek Road in Paradise, the more than 153,000 acre wildfire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.
As part of a statewide Power of Being Prepared campaign, energy companies can turn off power to fire-prone areas during extreme weather events as a safety precaution.
PG&E said, while Public Safety Power Shutoffs are more likely to occur in high fire-risk areas, all Californians could be impacted by emergency events and need to be prepared with a plan and an emergency kit.
Chief Shepherd wants people in Manteca to heed the warning.
“I believe that if people are prepared it will greatly reduce the impact to our city,” he said.
Shepherd is urging city government, organizations, schools, restaurants and businesses to be prepared. He also wants people at home to take necessary precautions.
“I recommend taking a tour of your home and daily life and looking at things you use power for and say what would I do if I didn’t have that power for maybe multiple days?” he said.
PG&E has also outlined some steps Californians can take to help prepare for extreme weather and Public Safety Power Shutoff events.
It recommends updating contact information with energy companies and signing up for important outage alerts, by visiting sites such as pge.com/mywildfirealerts.
The company is also asking people to identify backup charging methods for phones, keeping copies of emergency numbers and planning for any medical needs such as refrigerating medications.
Energy officials also suggest planning for the needs of pets and livestock, building or restocking energy kits with flashlights, batteries and first aid supplies and designating an emergency meeting location.
Businesses such as Frank’s Downtown Cafe said they’re already looking into energy and refrigeration alternatives should the power go out.
“We can ask what can we do? Can we get a generator? Can we rent a generator? Can we buy a generator?” he said.
Steps Carrera said he can take now to ensure he doesn’t lose his livelihood in the future.