Fire damaged electric panels leaves Santa Nella residents without power

Santa Nella, Calif.

Families living in the Santa Nella Mobile Home Park off Highway 33 have been without power since a house fire spread to electrical panels that gave power to more than 30 homes.

Residents have only two options: move out, or stay and live without electricity until the electric panels are fixed. The county says they can't find anyone who makes them anymore, so it'll have to be ordered and made. That could take up to a month and cost $78,000 -- and no one is sure where that money will come from.

Generators are now a common sound in the neighborhood. Power cords run across the streets as homes without electricity draw power from the houses that still have them.

Magaly Garcia's family is one of the homes borrowing power from neighbors. A fan is their only relief from the summer heat. Their food is crammed into a small fridge running on borrowed power but her family's big fridge had to be cleaned out.

"It was good stuff but we had to throw it all away because we couldn't keep up that fridge," said Garcia.

PG&E said the power is ready to be flipped on, as soon as the electric panels are replaced. A $78,000 tab families in the mobile home park can't afford -- and one that PG&E said it cannot help with. "The damage is to the customer owned equipment, we don't have the right, essentially, to go in and repair it," said Denny Boyles, PG&E spokesman.

Frustrated residents showed up at the meeting to get answers from Merced County leaders. The answer is complicated. The mobile homes have individual owners, and some of those owners rent. The county will try to work with each of them to raise the needed funds. They will also look for state grants and programs that maybe used to pay for a private expense like the panels.

In the meantime, the county says there's short term and permanent housing available in Merced and Dos Palos, and they can bump these families to the top. It's not a solution that's went over with many.

"They're offering me housing Section 8, bump to the top of the list, sounds great but that's my home, I love my home, I just want the problem fixed so I can stay here where I'm raising my kids," said Amanda Pasillas, resident.

But Magaly Garcia said it maybe the best option for family -- although it will mean leaving their home of 15 years. "My parents are older so the cant really be living in those conditions."

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