How businesses in Windsor pivoted from prep for PG&E power shut-off to Kincade Fire evacuation
Windsor Township was among several evacuated communities getting back to business after authorities gave the all-clear late Wednesday afternoon from the Kincade fire. This story was largely reported while the power outages and mandatory evacuations were in place. The Business Journal was able to reconnect with some of the story participants after the evacuation was lifted. Here are their stories.
“I got back to work (Wednesday) night to a tremendous welcome from the town of Windsor,” said David Cully, owner of KC’s American Kitchen, located in downtown Windsor. “What an emotional thing to have everybody stand out there and welcome you back.”
Cully brought his crew in Wednesday night to dump out what Cully estimates was between $10,000 and $15,000 worth of spoiled food, and to sanitize the restaurant.
The town’s electrical power had been restored, but not gas, so the restaurant couldn’t open Thursday. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. personnel starting visiting Windsor locations Saturday, Nov. 2, to restore gas service, but that process was expected to stretch into Monday, Nov. 4.
Cully’s restaurant was open to customers when the mandatory evacuation was announced on Oct. 26, he said.
“It was 10 a.m., there was the press conference and then the Nixle alerts started going off, and so it was like, OK, it’s time to go,” he said about the emergency electronic alert system many North Bay governments have been using to communicate with residents. “Everybody finished their meal and got going. It was kind of a natural flow.”
Cully and his wife took valuable photos off the walls, snapped pictures inside the restaurant and of the food stored inside the walk-in fridge and freezer. Then he went home, executed payroll for his 45 employees, and got everyone paid. He also filed an insurance claim.
Cully credits that decision to Windsor’s town leadership, who held a number of preplanning meetings ahead of PG&E’s ongoing planned power outages. Paying employees, having cash on hand and getting generators were among the takeaways of those sessions.
Lorene Romero, president and CEO of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, and Tim Ricard, the town’s economic development manager, began outreach efforts earlier this year to help businesses develop effective power-outage preparedness and mitigation plans, including for PG&E’s public safety power shutoff program, or PSPS. Mickie Tagle, the town manager’s senior management analyst, handled much of the logistics and outreach in pulling the events together.
Romero said a plan was in place for the PSPS event that was to start on Oct. 25, before Windsor subsequently went into evacuation mode at 4 p.m. the following day.
“I had a list of businesses that were going to be open so people had places to go on both sides of the town,” she said, naming Oliver’s Market, Raley’s, Corks & Taps, Baldassari Wine Lounge, and KC’s American Kitchen.
As it turned out, the PSPS preparation helped Windsor’s businesses stay in “go mode” for when the evacuation happened, Romero said.
Ricard on Thursday thanked first responders for their hard work in defending Windsor from the fire, and acknowledged that the town’s businesses need support.
“I think the business community had a tough time. They were closed, unable to do business for five days,” Ricard said. “Many of them lost inventory, so I would just encourage people as much as possible to come visit Windsor and support our local businesses.”