California wildfire danger prompts power shutoffs as PG&E reduces scale, San Diego could be impacted

Red flag warnings are in effect in much of the state for critical fire weather

Tens of thousands of residents in Northern California have had their power temporarily shut off as the state faces extreme fire weather conditions that also threaten outages for the southern part of the state.

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The nation's largest electric utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), said Sunday that a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) was underway in the northern part of the state due to strong and dry winds creating a "high fire risk."

"This PSPS event is based on forecasts of widespread, severely dry conditions and strong, gusty winds," the utility said. "These conditions are expected to continue through Monday morning in most locations."

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE THREAT SPURS UTILITY PG&E TO CUT POWER TO 89,000 CUSTOMERS

The utility said that changing weather conditions allowed it to reduce the scope of the event by 27% from the 89,000 customers who were to be initially impacted.

In total, the power shutoff is now impacting 65,000 customers in portions of 16 counties, including Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Tehama, and Yuba counties.

An air tanker drops retardant on the Glass Fire burning above Davis Estates winery in Calistoga, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Two customers within Sonoma County and 15 customers in Kern County are also impacted by the PSPS program.

"Some customers may experience outages unrelated to this PSPS event due to requests from Cal Fire to de-energize lines for the safety of firefighters in active fire areas or damage caused from wildfire-related impacts to equipment," the utility said.

Once high winds subside, PG&E will inspect de-energized lines to make sure they did not sustain any damage and then restore power.

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"PG&E will safely restore power in stages as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring power to nearly all customers who are safe to restore within 12 daylight hours after severe weather has passed," the company said.

Flames from the Glass Fire consume the Glass Mountain Inn, late Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in St. Helena, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The shutoffs in Northern California come as the region is facing hot weather and strong winds that could cause power lines to arc and spark new blazes in parched vegetation that’s ready to burn.

The Glass Fire burns a hillside above Silverado Trail in St. Helena, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Red flag warnings for extreme fire weather conditions have been issued for the region through Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

An air tanker drops retardant on the Glass Fire burning in Calistoga, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

A new wildfire broke out Sunday in Napa County, prompting evacuations of hundreds of homes and a hospital.

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In the southern part of the state, utility San Diego Gas & Electric notified residents in the eastern part of San Diego County it may have to turn off power because of elevated fire weather conditions.

Weak to moderate Santa Ana winds were forecast to impact the area, peaking Monday morning and become weak to moderate by the end of the day.

“In preparation, SDG&E has activated its Emergency Operations Center to monitor conditions 24/7 and has organized personnel and pre-staged materials and equipment for response,” the utility said in a news release.

On Saturday, SDG&E sent notifications to about 700 customers at risk of public safety power shutoffs by phone, text messages and email.

“Customers who were notified should be prepared to activate their personal emergency plan to keep their family, pets and livestock safe.” the utility said. “SDG&E will continue to provide customers with updates when there is more certainty about forecasted weather conditions.”

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
PCGPG & E CORP.10.82+0.29+2.75%
SRESEMPRA ENERGY127.97-0.14-0.11%

More than 8,000 California wildfires so far this year have scorched 5,600 square miles, destroyed more than 7,000 buildings, and killed 26 people.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.