Close to Home: Your neighbors in the blue trucks

PG&E has set up a base camp on the corner of Stony Point Road and Wilfred Avenue in Rohnert Park. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)



When I sat down with Sonoma County leaders at a smoky PG&E base camp in Rohnert Park, the extraordinary wind-driven wildfires in the hills were raging for a fifth consecutive day. Even as this tragedy fueled by a perfect storm of combustible weather conditions was still unfolding, it was already clear that rebuilding would be a monumental task.

I was there to listen; to hear from those most directly and personally affected what more PG&E could do. But I also came with a message — one echoed by all of the 23,000 women and men at our company: “We have been part of your community for more than 100 years,” I said. “You are our friends and neighbors, and we are devastated by what you are going through. We will work shoulder to shoulder with you to restore and rebuild what’s been lost, for as long as it takes.”

This commitment is a reflection of what PG&E is, what we stand for and who we are.

We live here. We work here. Our kids go to the same schools and play on the same sports teams. We shop in the same stores; worship in the same congregations; walk our dogs in the same parks.

More than that, our business is you. Everything PG&E does is intensely local, and inseparable from this place we hold so dear. Our company was started while the state of California was still being built. Our roots in Sonoma County are as old and deep as the vineyards at the heart of the region’s economy and its culture. Today, we touch homes and businesses across the vast majority of California’s 58 counties.

Our future, too, is intertwined with yours. We cannot thrive if you do not. That’s where PG&E’s commitment comes from. That’s why we’re in it for the long haul.

I saw that commitment in action with these wildfires. There are 772 PG&E employees in Sonoma County. Dozens lost their homes, and many more were evacuated. Yet like many first responders whose homes were damaged or at risk, a number of them put aside their personal considerations to be on the job. They’d tend to their own needs once they were done working to restore service to their neighbors.

We’re deeply grateful to the firefighters, police officers and others whose training, courage and selflessness on the front lines made it safe for us to turn the lights back and get the gas flowing again. We thank our customers for their patience and support as we completed that work.

For all customers in the wildfire impacted areas, we have already placed temporary holds on billing, which stops bills during and after a disaster. Also, for customers whose properties have been red-tagged by authorities as uninhabitable, PG&E is returning deposits on accounts where applicable and not requiring a new deposit for up to one year.

Now, we face the future together. As a first step, PG&E has donated $3 million in recovery funds to local organizations. That’s just a start. We’ll be working closely with civic leaders and community groups to find other opportunities to assist.

In the meantime, I invite you to keep an eye out for the PG&E that I know; the people I serve beside and rely on. We’re never far away. We’re across the street and around the corner. We are your neighbors in the blue trucks. We are here to help. And we’re here for you.

Geisha Williams is CEO and president of PG&E Corp.