Paso Robles City Council Report, September 2019

Pacific Gas and Electric delivered a presentation of its Public Safety Power Shutoff Program that is designed to mitigate potential fire hazards on the Central Coast caused by utility lines. 

“There’s a new normal with respects to our weather,” said Eric Daniels, PG&E Government Relations representative. “PG&E is looking forward to addressing some of these concerns… to operate in an environment with changing weather patterns.”

Daniels explained that several combined factors could lead to power outages to lower the risk of wildfire. Circumstances the company plans to monitor that include but are not limited to extreme heatwaves, low humidity levels (generally 20 percent and below) and forecasted sustained winds, generally above 25 miles per hour and wind gusts in excess of approximately 45 miles per hour.

Dangerous weather conditions would lead to power outages that could last from two to four days and put a major strain on City operations and the lives of its residents. In view of this, the Council voted to declare the existence of a local emergency and authorized the City Manager to “undertake all actions necessary to procure the necessary equipment, supplies and services” to aid the community in case of an extended power outage. 

PRCC July 16 01 Police Chief Lewis and Fire Chief Stornetta address the Council

Paso Declares Emergency Citing Fire Risk in Riverbed

Paso Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta brought to the Council’s attention the fact that the top fire threat facing the City is the Salinas Riverbed. Two major factors contributing to fire risk are the Federal Fish and Wildlife restrictions of clearing away undergrowth and the transient encampments in the riverbed that produces trash and human waste. The transients also tend to light camp fires in the riverbed.

“I remember we did a pretty big clean up in 2016 that cost the City over $160,000,” said Stornetta. “And I’ll tell you that the conditions now are worse than when we did it in 2016.” 

Answering Council questions, he said, “Truly, this is an imminent threat to public health and safety.”

Following Stornetta’s recommendation, the Council voted to dip into the City’s funds to mitigate the wildfire threat. Council member John Hamon was the sole dissenting vote. 

“I have been a champion in alleviating the suffering associated with homelessness,” said Mayor Steve Martin. “I may have a right to walk the streets of Paso Robles but I don’t have a right to walk the streets of Paso Robles and pollute the landscape.” He went on to say that the fact that a person does not have a home does not “relieve them of the responsibility to their fellow human beings.”