PG&E may shut off power for 69,000 in Northern California due to fire risk

Pacific Gas and Electric may soon shut off power starting Thursday morning for up to 69,000 customers in Northern California because of “expected extreme fire danger conditions,” according to a Tuesday press release.

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning on Tuesday for the Sacramento Valley and parts of the Bay Area, beginning Wednesday night and continuing through the end of the week.

The forecast calls for high winds. The winds and and dry vegetation creates a high potential for wildfires, and the power company doesn’t want to spark any flareups, said spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan. Cal Fire authorities have repeatedly pointed to PG&E’s power lines and failed power poles as causes for at least 16 wildfires last October that killed a total of 44 people.

Parts of nine counties — Butte, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sierra, Sonoma, Yuba — would be impacted by the shutoffs, according to spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan.

It would be a larger power shutoff than the one PG&E implemented last month across Northern California. PG&E’s first-ever public safety shutoff, it lasted three days and affected nearly 60,000 customers. The utility submitted a report to the California Public Utilities Commission last week defending its decision but acknowledged there was room for improvement in customer communication and restoration time.

“What we’re doing is in the interest of customers and the safety of customers, and only as a last result during extreme weather conditions,” Jourdan said.

PG&E began sending notifications of the potential shutoffs via texts, phone calls and emails Tuesday. Jourdan said that after monitoring weather conditions through Wednesday, PG&E will make a decision on which, if any, areas to de-energize and notify affected customers.

If power shutoffs begin, Jourdan said it’s unclear how long they may last.

“It’s a pretty fluid situation,” she said.

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