A Northern California man dependent on oxygen died just 12 minutes after Pacific Gas and Electric shut down power to the area as part of an effort to prevent fires.
El Dorado County Fire Chief Lloyd Ogan said on Friday that a call was placed to the fire department from Pollock Pines after 3.30am on Wednesday.
Crews arrived at the scene and found Robert Mardis Sr., 67, unresponsive and were unable to revive him, according to the Mountain Democrat.
Ogan said the man’s oxygen equipment required power, but could not say whether the shutdown was related to his death.
Mardis Sr.’s daughter, Marie Aldea, told FOX 40 that her father had several health issues and she believes the power cuts were involved in his death.
She said: ‘He had health issues. He had really bad COPD, which didn’t help, and he had congestive heart failure and other health issues, but the power going off and him not being able to get to his oxygen is, I believe, is what did it.’
Mardis Sr.’s oxygen tank reportedly lost power during PG&E’s power shutdown and he was unable to reach his battery-operated oxygen tank in time.
‘He’ll never see my kids get married, he’ll never see his grandchildren,’ Aldea said.
‘How do you fix that? You don’t. You can’t. Something got taken away from me that I can never get back, and I will miss my father forever.’
PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said it has not been able to confirm the accuracy of the report.
The power company told Fox 40: ‘We have no information on incident and have not been able to confirm the accuracy of the report. We refer you to local officials in El Dorado County.’
Governor Gavin Newson spoke out on Friday about the tragic death.
‘Losing a family member is horrific and to the extent this was the reason why, I hope that is investigated and I hope those responsible are held to account,’ he said.
The news of his death comes on the heels of the deaths of two others from the wildfires on Thursday: a man in his 50s who suffered cardiac arrest and Lois Arvickson, 89, after a fire swept through her mobile home park.
It’s unclear whether the unnamed victim was pronounced dead at his home or in another location.
Winds gusted dangerously as forecast before calming in Northern California, where PG&Electric faced hostility and second-guessing over its widespread shutoffs.
Governor Gavin Newsom criticized PG&E and ordinary customers complained about the inconveniences caused by the unprecedented blackouts that began midweek.
PG&E, though, suggested it was already seeing the wisdom of its decision borne out as gusts topping 77mph raked the San Francisco Bay Area amid a bout of dry, windy weather.
‘We have found multiple cases of damage or hazards’ caused by heavy winds, including fallen branches that came in contact with overhead lines,’ said Sumeet Singh, a vice president for the utility company. ‘If they were energized, they could’ve ignited.’
Because of the dangerous weather in the forecast, PG&E cut power on Wednesday to an estimated two million people in an area.
PG&E said on Friday that it has restored electricity to about 543,000 businesses and residences.
Another 195,000 customers remain without power. Experts say a customer includes between two and three people.
Areas without power includes Plumas, Yuba and Butte counties, where people are on their third day without electricity.
Butte County is where a fire started by PG&E equipment last year decimated the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.
The utility says power also remain out in of Kern County in the southern part of the state’s agricultural Central Valley, where strong winds prompted PG&E to cut power on Thursday.
The utility it was able to restore power after winds subsided and workers could inspect its power lines.