SAN FRANCISCO — Electricity may be shut off to about 54,000 Northern California utility customers this week to try to prevent power lines from sparking and igniting new wildfires during a predicted new round of gusty, hot and dry weather.
Customers in parts of 19 counties and in two tribal communities were notified Monday of a potential public safety power shutoff starting as early as Wednesday evening, Pacific Gas & Electric said.
A similar power shutoff was implemented last week. No major new fires were reported.
The utility has better targeted outages to limit impact after it was criticized in 2019 for cutting power to about 800,000 customers — about 2 million people — for days.
Meanwhile a court-appointed investigator found PG&E is falling behind in efforts to trim trees to keep limbs from crashing into power lines and igniting fires.
The investigator, Mark Filip, said the utility’s “enhanced vegetation management” program appeared to backslide this year after making strides in late 2019, the Sacramento Bee reported. Filip also said PG&E’s equipment inspection program appears to be flawed and badly prioritized.
PG&E is under probation following its conviction on felony charges in a fatal 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno.
The utility said in a statement late Tuesday it “recognizes that we must take a leading role in reducing the risk of wildfire throughout Northern and Central California.”
“We continue to evaluate, evolve and refine our approaches to further reduce wildfire risk and meet our Wildfire Mitigation Plan objectives,” the statement said.
PG&E said high-risk weather conditions are expected Wednesday evening through Friday primarily in the northern Sacramento Valley and nearby elevated terrain, the northern Sierra Nevada , the mountains north of San Francisco Bay and Mount Diablo in the East Bay.
More 8,600 wildfires have scorched well over 6,400 square miles (16,576 square kilometers) this year. There have been 31 deaths and more than 9,200 buildings have been destroyed.
More than 7,000 firefighters remained on the lines 22 wildfires, including 12 still considered major incidents, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
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