PG&E starts series of power shutoffs to prevent wildfires

California Connection

Cal Fire’s Boggs helitack assist in putting out a 12 acre brush fire in Larkfield Calif., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation’s largest electric utility has temporarily shut off power to thousands of Northern California residents to prevent wildfires sparked by electrical equipment as the state braces for potentially strong winds and extreme fire weather conditions.

Pacific Gas & Electric said Sunday it began shutting off power to customers in portions of Butte, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama counties.

The initial shutoffs were expected to affect about 15,000 customers. Another 74,000 customers in 12 more counties were due to be affected later on Sunday, the company said.

A message was left for PG&E seeking additional details.

The shutoffs come as fire-weary California prepared for a new siege of hot, dry weather with potentially strong winds that could cause power lines to arc and spark new blazes in parched vegetation that’s ready to burn.

Red Flag warnings for extreme fire weather conditions were issued for the northern and central areas of the state from late Saturday to Monday, the National Weather Service said.

So far this year, more than 8,000 California wildfires have scorched 5,600 square miles (14,504 square kilometers), destroyed more than 7,000 buildings and killed 26 people.

A new wildfire broke out Sunday in Napa County, prompting the evacuation of residents before dawn, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The fire is near several wineries and has burned 1.25 square miles (3.2 square kilometers).

“These are significant fire-weather concerns with all the dry fuels and the winds coming through and lowering relative humidities,” said Brian Garcia, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

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