PG&E hastens media outreach after transformer explosion

SAN FRANCISCO: Public utility Pacific Gas & Electric is aggressively courting the media after an electrical transformer exploded in downtown San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO: Public utility Pacific Gas & Electric is aggressively courting the media after an electrical transformer exploded in downtown San Francisco.

On August 19, an underground transformer exploded in the city's financial district, throwing a manhole cover 30 feet into the air, buckling the sidewalk, and shattering windows at a nearby shopping center. The explosion also started a small fire, and sent one woman to the hospital.

Initial concern was that the explosion was a terrorist attack. But fear turned to anger as it became clear that faulty PG&E equipment was the cause.

Mayor Gavin Newsom angrily criticized PG&E, accusing the utility of slipshod maintenance, which he said included recent fires at a substation that knocked out power to large sections of the city for hours.

PG&E is being as transparent as possible with the media and the public, said John Nelson, director of PG&E's news department.

The utility has issued a steady stream of press releases with information on the progress of its investigation as to what occurred. And it has invited the media to come out as the utility inspects equipment not just at the location of the blast, but throughout the city. PG&E will continue to be as open as possible with the public throughout the investigation, said Nelson.

"We want to get the facts out about what has happened, and help customers understand that there is little risk to them of a reoccurrence," said Nelson. "This is first and foremost a safety message, and we want to let everyone know we are doing the right thing."

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