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PG&E Warns It May Cut Power to 97,000 Customers to Avoid Fires

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 9/26/2020 Mark Chediak
a person standing on a dirt road: Power lines and transmission towers in Crockett, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. On Tuesday -- just as California was preparing to plunge as many as 6 million people into darkness to save the power system from one of the worst heat waves in generations -- blazes torched tens of thousands of acres, forcing people to flee their homes and prompting California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency only days into the peak of the wildfire season. © Bloomberg Power lines and transmission towers in Crockett, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. On Tuesday -- just as California was preparing to plunge as many as 6 million people into darkness to save the power system from one of the worst heat waves in generations -- blazes torched tens of thousands of acres, forcing people to flee their homes and prompting California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency only days into the peak of the wildfire season.

(Bloomberg) -- PG&E Corp. warned it may need to cut power about 97,000 homes and businesses this weekend -- almost five times more than it earlier anticipated -- to prevent its equipment from sparking blazes as high winds buffet the bone-dry hills of Northern California.

The San Francisco-based utility giant said it may need to turn off electricity as soon as Sunday morning to portions of 15 counties, mostly located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, according to a statement late Friday.

PG&E, which initially warned the outages could impact 21,000 customers, said the scope needed to be expanded based on updated forecasts that showed stronger potential wind gusts in a large swath of company’s service area.

The fire risk is forecast to last from Saturday night through midday Monday. The National Weather Service warns gusts could reach 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) per hour in some areas. PG&E will restore power as soon as it can confirm lines weren’t damaged.

More than 8,000 wildfires have already ripped through California this year, burning a record 3.6 million acres. The state’s fire fighting crews have been stretched thin as they battle 25 major blazes.

California’s peak wildfire season traditionally runs from September through November. But it’s been growing increasingly longer in recent years, with blazes coming as late as December.

Earlier this month, PG&E cut power to about 172,000 homes and businesses as high winds raked California. Utilities across the U.S. West are increasingly cutting power ahead of wind storms to reduce the chances of their live wires igniting catastrophic blazes.

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