Stanford cancels classes as fire burns in San Mateo County

Stanford University canceled in-person classes Thursday and Friday due to a power outage caused by wildfire in unincorporated San Mateo County.

The university informed students and faculty that the campus would remain closed until power is restored by PG&E. The utility said they did not have access to the area where electrical equipment was damaged by a wildfire that started burning earlier this week.

“Although PG&E has not provided an update on power restoration, we are preparing for the possibility that it could take days,” Stanford University said on its social media channels on Thursday. “PG&E continues to provide limited power over a secondary line, but not enough to meet normal campus needs.”

On Wednesday evening, power was restored to hospitals and other high-priority buildings and residences on campus.

Cassidy Dalva, an aspiring sophomore at Stanford who works as a research assistant, said she was in a campus lab around 2 p.m. Tuesday when the lights suddenly went out. A few minutes later everyone in the building was told to leave as the next thing to do was the air conditioner would go out. About half an hour later the cell phone reception stopped working.

“A lot of people were quite worried, especially when we didn’t have cell service. That was pretty scary,” Dalva said. “I tried to stay with my friends and not be alone very often just because there was really no way to reach anyone in case something happened.”

Dalva noted that although her dorm now has power and cell service, she is aware of other dorms on campus that are still without power. Students created a spreadsheet to track which buildings on campus have electricity and which don’t.

Students also did not have access to filtered water in the dormitories during this time. Dalva said key cards also temporarily stopped working, meaning students were unable to enter the dormitories for a period of time.

“The combination of no cell phone coverage, no Wi-Fi, no air conditioning — all of these made a lot of people nervous,” Dalva said. “I will say that people really came together. That was something reassuring for me.”

According to Dalva, the university provided students with flashlights in the dormitories. Stanford has also designated specific locations as 24-hour quiet rooms that have power on all day. Students can use outlets in these locations to charge personal devices. Dalva said those spots have filled up very quickly over the past few days.

Stanford warns the community that restoring power to college dormitories, while a priority, is “still a long way short of a full campus recovery.”

Stanford University is about 25 miles east of the fire, which was first reported Tuesday afternoon in Edgewood County Park burning in dry vegetation. The fire burned 20 acres and is 90% contained as of Thursday.

The cause of the outage is still under investigation, PG&E said in a statement on Thursday.

PG&E said it was notified of the outages in San Mateo County at 2:20 p.m. Tuesday afternoon and has been working all day to restore power to customers. As of Thursday morning, only 13 customers were without power — including Stanford University, PG&E spokeswoman Mayra Tostado said.

“We are actively trying to connect impacted customers to other sections of our electrical system and will begin repairs once the area is safe and first responder access is granted,” Tostado said.

Utility crews await clearance from Cal Fire so they can access and repair the damaged electrical equipment.

“We understand how disruptive it is to be without power and are using every tool at our disposal to restore power as quickly as possible,” Tostado said. Stanford cancels classes as fire burns in San Mateo County

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