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PG&E officials hoping metallic balloons not on Valentine’s gift list

It’s crunch time in the hunt for a Valentine’s gift, but PG&E officials hope the choice doesn’t include metallic balloons.

Metallic, or Mylar, balloons can get loose and fly into power lines, sparking an outage. There were nine such outages in Sonoma County last year, according to PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras.

The most recent incident occurred Dec. 16 in Petaluma. A metallic balloon touched a power line on Weaverly Drive and knocked out power to 608 customers,

“They were out for about an hour because of this balloon,” Contreras said.

That was the largest of the nine Sonoma County outages, the bulk of which occurred in Santa Rosa.

Throughout PG&E’s extensive California region, 429 balloon-sparked outages happened in 2016, affecting more than 200,000 customers, according to department statistics.

It’s been an ongoing problem for years. The material used on the balloons includes stretched polyethylene film or foil, which can catch fire when it connects with a power line.

A safer alternative, she said, is a latex balloon. By state law, all metallic balloons filled with helium have to be sold with a weight to keep them from floating off.

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