SACRAMENTO — Pacific Gas and Electric says it could cut off power to a large swath of Northern California later this week to prevent its equipment from starting wildfires during hot, windy weather.
The utility says power could be shut off in part of nearly 30 counties in central and Northern California starting Wednesday and through Thursday, when hot weather and strong winds are forecast.
In a Monday night press release, PG&E says more than 600,000 customers in the following areas could be impacted by the shutoffs:
Two years ago this week, the Tubbs Fire destroyed thousands of homes in Sonoma and Napa counties and killed 22 people.
And next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the Camp Fire, which devastated the community of Paradise and claimed 85 lives.
According to Cal Fire, the state's top five most destructive fires in terms of structures lost all happened between September and November, with three of them in October. They all occurred during periods of gusty wind and low humidity.
The conditions that drove the fires are coming to Northern California, including the Sacramento Valley, in a few days.
"Really extreme fire weather is what we're looking at right now, what the weather models are showing,” said Cal Fire Chief Mike Mohler.
Mohler said the agency is preparing for a period of widespread gusty winds and critically low humidity throughout much of California during the middle part of this week.
"We are going to staff additional aircraft, ground crews, personnel. And not just Cal Fire, agencies across the state will be prepared in case we, unfortunately, see a fire,” he told FOX40.
Cal Fire is urging everyone to prepare by having an evacuation plan.
"Wildland fires know no boundaries,” Chief Mohler said. “So, that traditional, ‘Oh, I don't live next to a hillside with brush,' no longer exits. If you look at the Tubbs Fire, it jumped the 101 Freeway, six lanes and went into what we would consider an urban neighborhood."
Everyone also has a role to play in preventing fires. That includes avoiding all outdoor burning, careless disposal of cigarettes and matches, and not using machinery on dry grass during periods of high fire danger.
For those who thought recent red flag warnings were unwarranted, what's coming this week will be much more widespread in terms of the wind.
"This is the largest, most concerning event that we've had in 2019," Mohler said.
Learn more about preparing for a wildfire by clicking here.