PG&E to Cut Power to 159,000 Californians as Fire Risk Returns

PG&E Corp. said it will cut power to about 159,000 people in parts of Northern California to reduce the chances of its power lines starting fires as the parched region braces for another round of high winds.

A so-called Diablo wind event will develop by Wednesday evening that will require PG&E to start turning off power as soon as 6 p.m. local time in 24 counties including parts of Oakland and in the Northern California wine country resort town of Calistoga, a spokeswoman said. Impacted customers will likely be without electricity until Friday evening, the company said.

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The National Weather Service expects dangerous fire conditions to develop throughout Northern California on Wednesday with wind gusts forecast to top 55 miles per hour (89 kilometers per hour) in the region’s mountains and ridges.

The outage will affect 53,000 customers, or 159,000 people, based on the average size of the California household.

PG&E has been resorting to turning off electricity to prevent damaged lines from sparking wildfires after its equipment was blamed for causing some of California’s worst blazes, forcing the company into bankruptcy last year. PG&E emerged from Chapter 11 in July after having paid $25.5 billion to resolve fire claims.

PG&E has deployed fire-prevention power cuts earlier this fall including in the general area where the Zogg fire originated last month in Shasta County. However, the utility said state investigators were looking at some of its equipment as part of a probe into the start of that blaze, which killed four people.

Record-breaking wildfires in California this year have charred more than 4.1 million acres, killed 31 people and destroyed more than 9,200 homes and businesses, according to the state’s fire agency.

— With assistance by David R Baker

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