Community comes together to protest power shutoffs

Agua Dulce resident Wendy Rotoli voices her concerns over Southern California Edison's Public Safety Power Shutoff policies speaks at the Agua Dulce town council meeting Wednesday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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Dozens gathered at the Agua Dulce Town Council meeting Wednesday to share their stories with representatives from Southern California Edison.

For the past month, this community and the surrounding areas have been affected by Edison’s public safety power shutoffs, or PSPS, leaving them without power for days at a time.

“It’s not PSPS, it’s PS-BS,” said state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita. “People say this is the new normal, and it’s not acceptable to me — I know it’s not acceptable to you.”

Both Wilk and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, were in attendance, as well as representatives from Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, and L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office, not only to support the community, but also to hear residents’ concerns.

Residents hold up flashlights at the Agua Dulce Town Council Meeting on Wednesday, symbolizing the power outages the community has had to endure. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

After hearing updates from Edison representatives, who explained the decision to shut off power, each attendee was given the chance to speak.

Shawn-e Marlow began by listing a number of concerns caused by the outages, such as the lack of water for animals, no power to run medical equipment, no ways to communicate and loss of food without generators.

“We are helpless in an emergency,” she said. “Many locals are experiencing anxiety and emotional trauma. This is hitting us like Chinese water torture. We’re going nuts at the slightest breeze.”

Many agreed with Marlow, adding PSPS alerts have them in a “constant state of alarm.”

Marlow apologized for being upset, but said she has gotten no answers from Edison. “Maybe SCE should stop looking at our concerns as complaints and accept them as real-life hardships.”

A woman holds up a flashlight at the Agua Dulce Town Council Meeting on Wednesday, symbolizing the power outages the community has had to endure. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

Many residents are wondering what changed as many have lived in the area for years and have seen their share of high winds.

“Have you increased the voltage in these lines that makes this a greater hazard than it was in the past?” Kevin McGillivray asked the Edison representatives, adding, “30 years of being here, and now all of a sudden we have this? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”

“We collectively, as a community, want to come up with solutions, and not just hit you with a parade of problems,” McGillivray added before suggesting lowering the voltage in the lines, among other things.

Wendy Rotoli, who lost her home in the Tick Fire, thought she was prepared for a fire. Not only did she clear brush 200 feet around her property, but she also had sprinklers in her home “but without electricity, I have no well and I have no water,” she said.

“How can I be more prepared?” she asked.

A woman holds up a flashlight at the Agua Dulce Town Council Meeting on Wednesday, symbolizing the power outages the community has had to endure. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

Mark Flath, who also recently attended the Acton Town Council Meeting, agreed, adding “be prepared” was the reply he received when he asked what people who live in the community are supposed to do.

“What is being prepared, mean for the elderly, who are in their 50s and 60s, might have health issues and cannot start a generator?” he asked.

Los Angeles County registered nurse Alicia Stern said though Edison assured her that she was on the list to receive PSPS notifications, she did not receive one.

She wants to use this opportunity for neighbors to reach out to one another. “Let’s take care of each other, and use this to figure out who our neighbors are.”

Brylee Flores addressed this in her speech, adding that when a fire does come, neighbors rely on each other for communication to know when they’ve got to start evacuating large animals, as that is often before they receive mandatory evacuation notices.

“We connect with each other over Facebook and over the phone — all these things that require cell service and internet — and that’s how we stay safe,” Flores said. “When you turn off the power, we have none of that. We can’t use the resources that this community has built to fight fires, to communicate with each other and to keep each other safe in an emergency situation.”

Southern California Edison Vice President of Transmission Substation Operations Erik Takayesu speaks at the Agua Dulce town council meeting Wednesday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Erik Takayesu, vice president of transmissions, substation and operations at Edison, said a lot of the ideas brought up in the meeting are things that Edison is currently working on.

“We’re learning very fast, and we’re making improvements every day,” Takayesu said. “I would say we’re better today than we were yesterday. We’re going to honestly take (these concerns and suggestions) back and do what we can to provide solutions.”

Council President Don Henry urged the Edison representatives to agree to no more shutoffs until they meet again at the next council meeting in January.

“We need to have an assurance that we’re not going to be going through this because these people are suffering,” Henry said.

“Our complaints have been voiced, but the public safety power shutoff still threatens the safety of our community,” added Brylee Flores. “This will not be the new normal, and the residents of Agua Dulce will stand and shout until Edison comes up with a better solution.”

“We residents refuse to be sitting ducks,” she said. “We aren’t a town known for rolling over, and … our voices will be heard. We will not be quiet until Edison caves to public pressure and puts an end to the public safety shutoffs endangering our community.”

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