The decision to cutoff power to Lathrop in order to prevent a potential wildfire could end up costing the city almost $40,000-a-day.
And that’s just in fuel alone.
During a town hall forum at the Lathrop Community Center on Wednesday night hosted by San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti, Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely informed the public that the incident management team – comprised of himself, City Manager Steve Salvatore, and Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann – have already secured a vendor that will provide the 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel needed every day to operate the city’s essential facilities during an extended power outage.
That number could easily climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if the outage extends out multiple days – the city already has a contract in place with a private security company to supplement existing police services, and if the outages lasts for 24 hours or longer, Lathrop Police will institute a callback where every officer assigned to Lathrop will be brought in for extended shifts to maintain law and order.
At the Lathrop City Council meeting last week, Neely detailed how the incident management team will include the City of Lathrop’s Finance Director, Cari James, so that every dollar that is spent during the outage can be tracked in the event that the city will be able to recover some of the expenses incurred while maintaining essential city services like water, sewer, and police and fire protection.
While Wednesday’s event at the community center was largely a rehashing of the PG&E presentation that was made at the council meeting earlier this month, residents got the chance to ask questions directly of elected officials and public servants that are working to minimize the potential impacts of a widespread power outage.
According to PG&E spokesperson Dylan George, the exact location of the outage can’t be determined until the conditions that start the wildfire protection plan are observed – a red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service, sustained winds in excess of 25 miles per hour with gusts in excess of 45 miles per hour, low humidity, and an abundance of the dry fuels that make wildfires particularly destructive. Because of the layout of PG&E’s electrical grid, where the triggering conditions are observed will likely be the determining factor in which transmission lines – the high-voltage lines that for the first time this year are being included in the wildfire shutdowns – are deenergized. Because of that, it’s possible that not all parts of a city or county will be without power, but George stressed that it’s impossible to know ahead of time which areas will be affected and for how long the power will be out once it is cut.
Patti, who held a similar town hall meeting in Manteca on Tuesday and a county-wide event last week, commended the City of Lathrop for its foresight in planning and preparation – a sentiment that was echoed by George – and urged all residents to do what they can to prepare for an outage as a way to minimize the impacts on first responders and government employees when the emergency does hit.
PG&E is urging all customers to make sure that their contact information is updated so that they can inform residents of pending outages when the decision is made – hopefully with 48 hours of advance notice. The Lathrop Manteca Fire District also encourages anybody with health concerns that require access to power – for things like oxygen tanks or CPAP machines – to register with the district so that wellness checks can be performed to ensure the health of safety of residents and plans can be made for people with extenuating circumstances.
For additional information about how to prepare for the outage, visit www.prepareforpowerdown.com and www.ready.gov. The San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services is preparing to launch www.sjready.org, which will have detailed, up-to-date information about emergency preparedness when it launches.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.