Wildfires burn across California
Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, has called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to transform Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) into a customer-owned utility.
PG&E has been under scrutiny after the Oct. 9 power shutoff affected about 738,000 customers, Bill Johnson, the company's CEO, said in a statement. Earlier this week, the company cut off power to about 1 million customers in Northern California in an attempt to prevent wildfires.
About 73% of the customers impacted by the shutoff earlier this week had power restored by early Wednesday, PG&E said. But the company also said it would begin cutting off power to 540,000 customers ahead of stronger winds.
Roughly 365,000 customers in California remain without power, according to PG&E.
Khanna told CNN that a customer or publicly-owned utility would put safety and affordability over profits.
"It could use bonds to raise capital for infrastructure investments like micro grids and line break protection systems. A distributed electricity system puts communities in control of their own power," Khanna said. "They wouldn’t be dependent on big utility company like PG&E. They also will make better use of renewable energy. Silicon Valley Power, owned by the city of Santa Clara in my district, uses 72% greenhouse gas free power and 9% more renewable energy than the state average.”
Newsom blasted PG&E after the shutoff, demanding it "be held accountable" and provide rebates or credits after leaving thousands in the dark and some customers without power for days.
"Californians should not pay the price for decades of PG&E's greed and neglect," Newsom said in a news release.
Khanna claims that PG&E could become a public utility through the courts.
The bankruptcy court could approve the sale of PG&E assets to the state or municipalities with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) having final say on any plan coming out of bankruptcy, Khanna told CNN.
"The state could also use eminent domain to take control of PG&E assets or by some act of the [California] legislature like Sen. Jerry Hill has advocated for. Then municipalities or a new co-op would work with the CPUC to implement the new utility. They’d have to ensure affordable energy for all of PG&E’s service area and honor existing union agreements," he said.
CNN's Christina Maxouris, Sarah Moon, Holly Yan and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.
Firefighters are gaining the upper hand on the Hill Fire, which has scorched 250 acres in Riverside County.
They have stopped forward progress of the fire burning in Jurupa Valley, the Riverside County Fire Department said. The fire is 5% contained.
Five semi-trucks overturned today on Interstate 15 outside of San Bernardino due to strong winds, a spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol told CNN.
Powerful gusts caused three tractor trailers headed northbound and two going southbound to overturn, Officer Devon Boatman said. The northbound trailers blew over into the right shoulder while the two southbound trucks are still blocking three lanes of traffic, causing a four-mile backup, the CHP officer said.
Boatman said both of the southbound tractor trailers toppled near the Sierra Avenue overpass and are within a quarter-mile of each other.
The California Department of Transportation is working to clean up a fuel spill from one of the two southbound trucks, Boatman said. Officials hope both rigs will be cleared within the next two hours.
Boatman said the CHP won't upright the trucks until the red flag warning is lifted, which he expects to happen either Thursday or Friday.
Only one of the five truck drivers suffered minor injuries, the CHP officer said.
Some background: The National Weather Service issued its first-ever extreme red flag warning for Southern California last night, adding enhanced language to the alert meaning winds, temperatures and humidity are ripe for fire danger.
A senior center in Riverside County, California, was evacuated today due to the Hill Fire.
Elderly residents were rushed out of Riverside Heights senior center as smoke and wind whipped around them.
The Hill Fire is currently about 200 acres and 5% contained.
About 26,000 people were forced to flee their homes due to the threat from the Easy Fire in Simi Valley, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayoub said at a news conference today.
The fire, which has burned at least 1,300 acres, could jump Highway 23, officials said.
“We are not out of the woods yet," incident commander Chad Cook said.
Cook went on to describe the intense firefighting conditions. He said at one point during the firefight, they had to ground fixed-wing aircraft because of the high winds. Gusts reached up to 65 mph in the area.
The fire has also burned through the area surrounding the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Cook said. But library is not completely out of the woods yet. Residual heat from the fire could still pose a threat, he said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced today that the state has secured a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fight the Easy Fire, which erupted early this morning in Ventura County, according to a statement from the governor's office.
“The continued real-time assistance provided as California grapples with fires across the state has been critical to our efforts to keep communities safe and reduce damages," Newsom said. “We are thankful to our federal, state and local partners for their extraordinary, collaborative response in this challenging time.”
The grant will assist agencies responding to the blaze to apply for reimbursement for fire suppression costs, the statement said.
Some background: The blaze broke out this morning in Simi Valley, prompting the evacuation of the Reagan Presidential Library and nearby schools as well as the closure of highways in the area.
The wildfire is threatening 6,500 homes and has scorched at least 1,300 acres, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
A 50-acre fire known as the "Hill Fire" is burning in the Jurupa Valley, according to Riverside County Fire Department.
Mandatory evacuations are in place and Highway 60 is closed in both directions.
The Jurupa Valley is on the far east side of the greater Los Angeles area.
Gov. Gavin Newsom will meet with Californians who are grappling with evacuations and the impacts of consecutive utility power shutoffs today, according to the governor's press office.
He will stop at a mobile food bank and resource center in Santa Rosa where residents can pick up food, and learn whether they could qualify for fire or Public Safety Power Shutoff-related unemployment benefits and access other services.
The governor will then return to a mobile home park in American Canyon to check in on residents who he visited this past weekend ahead of this week’s utility-led Public Safety Power Shutoff.
Newsom will share resources to help residents receive support to replace food and prescription medications they lost during the power shutoffs.
Following his visit, he will hold a news conference in the mobile home park’s community room to highlight the resources available to all Californians affected by the fires and power shutoffs.
Remember: At least 26 million people are under some kind of red flag warning for fires in California.
The Easy Fire in Simi Valley is threatening 6,500 homes, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
The fire, which has scorched at least 1,300 acres, is burning on a ridge near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, forcing officials to order evacuations of the library and nearby homes and close schools.
The Simi Valley Unified School District closed all schools Wednesday because of the fire threat.