One of the worst aspects of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s power shut offs for fire risk is the waiting, said Ron Rickman, who lives east of Oroville in Butte County.

He and his wife Carolyn have been through a power shutoff twice since PG&E began its program and are waiting for the third in a month.

They can’t really make plans to go visit their son in Trinity County because of the uncertainty of how long the blackouts will last, or whether they will happen at all.

“It’s one of those things where you change what you do in your everyday life,” Ron Rickman said.

He said they already have the car packed and parked outside of their garage, which has an electronic door, in case they need to flee in an emergency while the power is out.

They’ve also stocked up on dry food and purchased additional gas for their generator, which they bought for about $350 two years ago due to concerns about fires.

“You have to be vigilant,” Ron Rickman said. “We’ve been living in California our entire lives and never experienced anything like this.”

Ron Rickman said his power was last shut off by PG&E on Sept. 23 from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. the next morning.

The power was back on for most of the following day, but was shut off again from about 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. the day after that.

One of the most common complaints he said he heard from his neighbors was the lack of landline phones or Internet, due to the poor cell service in the area.

“How can you call for emergency services when you don’t have a phone?” he asked. “I would have to get in my car and drive somewhere.”

Ron Rickman said their generator can power their refrigerator, freezer and some lights in their house, but he heard from others who didn’t have a generator and lost hundreds of dollars in food from their fridge.

Rickman said he and his wife mainly just sat on their bed with their dog and two cats watching a movie on a battery-operated player that he had already seen many times before.

“We went outside and all you could hear were these generators all over the place,” he said. “It was eerie.”

The Rickmans live not far from the town of Paradise that burned to the ground last year in a fire that killed 85 people and was blamed on PG&E electrical transmission lines.

While the Rickmans understand the purpose of the shutoffs is for safety, Ron Rickman said he believes PG&E could do a better job communicating with customers about the reasons for them.

“You just get a flash on the news and little recorded thing from PG&E,” he said. “I get they can’t call every single person, but they should at least explain it to us.”

Ron Rickman said they were told that the previous shut offs were out of concern for wind, but there was “not a breath of wind” when the shut offs occurred.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 588-4530.