In the aftermath of a devastating series of wildfires that threatened California’s Del Norte County, a unique and critical response emerged to address a pressing challenge: restoring power to the community. This article explores how a microgrid of generators played a pivotal role in re-energizing Del Norte County and provides insights into the larger implications of this extraordinary effort.

Microgrid of Generators Restores Power After Wildfires in California's Del Norte County
Microgrid of Generators Restores Power After Wildfires in California’s Del Norte County

Wildfires Threaten Del Norte County

In the wake of approximately 150 lightning strikes igniting over two dozen fires, California’s northwest region faced a rapidly escalating wildfire crisis. These fires posed not only a threat to the natural landscape but also to the vital infrastructure supporting Del Norte County’s 27,000 residents.

The Unexpected Power Outage

As fires encroached on transmission lines that provided power to Del Norte County, residents faced an unexpected power outage. Pacific Power issued warnings of electricity disruptions as wildfires grew, leading to the eventual shutdown of power.

The Race to Bring Back Electricity

With the sudden power loss, local and utility officials swiftly initiated emergency procedures. Temporary shelters, generators for vulnerable residents, and backup power for crucial facilities were set up to mitigate the effects of the outage.

Community’s Critical Needs

The outage highlighted the critical role of electricity in sustaining the community. Dialysis patients, well-water homes, and refrigeration needs were among the immediate concerns that arose as power remained absent.

Resilience Through Generators

To address the power crisis, a creative solution emerged: large generators were deployed to create microgrids that could function independently of the fire-threatened transmission lines. This marked the beginning of a remarkable community-wide electrification effort.

Utility Companies’ Response

Pacific Power, with support from Pacific Gas & Electric, orchestrated the deployment of tractor-trailer-sized generators. These generators gradually restored power to Del Norte County, demonstrating the unprecedented scale of the operation.

A More Sustainable Approach

While diesel generators proved crucial in this emergency, neighboring Humboldt County explored sustainable microgrids powered by solar, batteries, and natural gas. Such resilient systems aim to withstand outages without relying on traditional power sources.

Looking Toward the Future

The emergency response has prompted discussions about improving utility independence and resilience in Del Norte County. Native American tribes and utility companies are exploring innovative solutions to protect communities from future disasters.

The Ongoing Challenge

The wildfire threat remains as the Smith River Complex fire, which crossed into Oregon, continues to burn. Air quality remains poor, and the region faces moderate drought conditions, underscoring the persistent risk.

Calls for Long-Term Solutions

As Del Norte County reflects on this unprecedented crisis, calls for long-term solutions grow louder. Senator Mike McGuire advocates for readily available backup generation and a second set of transmission lines to enhance the region’s resilience.

Details In Short

  1. Date of Outage: The power outage occurred on August 18, 2023.
  2. Time Frame: The outage started just hours after the fires erupted, surprising local authorities.
  3. Location: The outage affected Del Norte County, California, particularly Crescent City, a city of about 6,000 residents.
  4. Utility Company: Pacific Power, a branch of PacifiCorp, provided electricity to the affected region.
  5. Generator-Powered Microgrids: Large generators were employed to create microgrids that operated independently of the fire-threatened transmission lines.
  6. Emergency Response: Local, state, federal, and utility officials coordinated emergency procedures, including setting up temporary shelters and providing small-scale generators.
  7. Critical Needs: Concerns included how dialysis patients would receive treatment, access to well-water, and food preservation as refrigerators lost power.
  8. Support from PG&E: Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) provided significant assistance, mobilizing generators and utility crews for emergency support.
  9. Scale of Generators: Close to 40 megawatts of generation were mobilized, connected at substations to provide power.
  10. Cost and Rates: The total cost of the operation was not available, but customers would be charged at existing rates for the three-week period of generator power.
  11. Sustainable Solutions: Neighboring Humboldt County explored sustainable microgrids, using a combination of solar, batteries, and natural gas.
  12. Calls for Resilience: Senator Mike McGuire called for more readily available backup generation and a second set of transmission lines to enhance resilience in the region.


The story of Del Norte County’s power restoration offers a glimpse into the remarkable efforts and challenges faced during an emergency. As communities confront the growing threats of wildfires and climate change, the need for innovative and sustainable solutions becomes increasingly apparent. Del Norte County’s experience serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of resilience in the face of adversity.

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