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PG&E Says Public Safety Power Shutoffs Won't Be As Bad This Year

PLACERVILLE (CBS13) — With triple-digit heat and a ferocious start to fire season, these hot and dry conditions are a reminder of fire danger and, for many, power shutoffs.

Pacific Gas and Electric is telling people to get ready for Public Safety Power Shutoffs, but promising this year won't be as bad.

PG&E said shutoffs are not expected this week, but that could always change if the weather changes. Shutoffs happen when it's not only hot, but also very windy with low humidity.

These power shutoffs are a sore spot for businesses in Placerville. Just months ago, one side of Main Street kept power while the other did not. Some business owners fear more power shutoffs would be unsurvivable, given the damage done by COVID-19.

"To have this again is a huge slap in the face," said Zacharie Kokalis, owner of the Wine Smith in Placerville.

Kokalis said power was on and off, sporadically, for two weeks last year.

READ: Placer County Officials Suspend Generator Permit Fees To Ease Burden Of Power Shutoffs

"People didn't come in, we had to use candlelight. The business was very slow and it was heartbreaking," she said.

This year, PG&E is promising change.

"Definitely we should see a smaller number of customers being impacted," said spokesperson Brandi Merlo.

The company says they've installed nearly 600 sectionalizing devices to target shutoffs at communities with greatest fire risk, increased the number of microgrids that give communities an alternate source of power, and nearly doubled the helicopter fleet to 65 which will speed up line inspections after a weather event is over.

Merlo said COVID-19 has not affected progress on this.

"Our employees have been able to continue to work and continue to hit important milestones to upgrade our equipment," she said.

READ: Judge OKs $58B Plan To End PG&E Bankruptcy After Wildfires

Merlo said the company wants to keep outages to just 12 hours instead of days on end.

But for Zacharie Kokalis, being closed even just one day is unaffordable after the damage done by coronavirus shutdowns.

"People who want to get on their feet, including me and get going, even with the rent are finding it very difficult," she said. "We just don't have the resources to do that again. I'm afraid it would kill the business."

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