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PG&E shuts power to lower wildfire risks in Northern California

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Printed 2:56 a.m. ET June 8, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Fuel & Electrical mentioned it’s going to shut off energy Saturday to about 1,600 prospects in Northern California and should do the identical for 1000’s extra to cut back the chance of wildfires.

The utility introduced Friday night time that as of Saturday morning it’s going to flip off electrical energy to prospects in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties west of Sacramento.

The utility mentioned it additionally will monitor circumstances in elements of the Sierra foothills Saturday night time by way of Sunday when they are going to be at peak hearth threat. The corporate mentioned it may determine to chop energy to 30,000 prospects in Butte, Yuba, Nevada, El Dorado and Placer counties.

That features parts of Paradise, the place a wildfire worn out practically 15,000 properties final yr.

The warning got here as forecasters issued the yr’s first pink flag warning of excessive hearth hazard due to sturdy winds, low humidity and heat temperatures in parts of the Central Valley and areas north of San Francisco.

After downed energy traces and PG&E tools have been blamed for earlier fires, the utility has been beneath monumental stress to keep away from one other lethal blaze.

Going through lawsuits from insurance coverage firms and wildfire victims, the corporate filed for chapter safety and changed lots of its prime leaders.

These areas are the place the state’s most devastating wildfires occurred previously two years.

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“The security of our prospects and the communities we serve is our most essential accountability. We all know how a lot our prospects depend on electrical service, and our resolution tonight to show off energy is to guard our communities experiencing excessive hearth hazard,” Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vp of electrical operations, mentioned in an announcement.

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The utility mentioned it considers a number of components when figuring out if energy needs to be turned off for security. They embrace durations of extreme winds and low humidity when vegetation is dried out and might simply ignite.

State hearth officers mentioned grass and shrub within the valley and foothills have dried regardless of an unusually wet spring.

“The moisture stayed with us by way of Could, but it surely dries out shortly on account of our Mediterranean local weather,” mentioned Scott McLean, a spokesman with the California Division of Forestry and Hearth Safety.

The warning is in impact till 5 p.m. Sunday.

As soon as energy is shut off, PG&E mentioned its crews will examine each de-energized line earlier than they restore energy, a course of that may hold the lights out for days even after circumstances enhance.

The precautionary outages may inconvenience prospects whereas endangering some who rely upon electrical energy.

Final week, state regulators authorized permitting utilities to chop off electrical energy when hearth threat is extraordinarily excessive. The California Public Utilities Fee mentioned utilities should do a greater job educating and notifying the general public, notably these with disabilities and others who’re susceptible, and ramp up preventive efforts, similar to clearing brush and putting in fire-resistant poles.

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