PG&E to shut off power to reduce risk of sparking wildfires

PG&E has  begun deliberately shutting off power to 17 Northern and Central California counties to reduce the risk of sparking wildfires through their electric grid system amid forecasts that could create conditions for electrical equipment to ignite wildfires..

The utility company confirmed the power outages Wednesday morning as it moves forward with its "Public Safety Power Shutoff" protocol in parts of the Sierra Foothills and North Bay, as well as Kern and San Mateo counties.

The decision to shut off power comes was made in response to a forecast of hot, dry and windy weather, the combination of which poses an increased risk for wildfires caused by sparks on the company’s electric system.

The power outage will affect approximately 180,000 customers throughout 17 California counties, affecting about 450,000 people. The counties affected by the outages are: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Kern, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama and Yuba counties.

The shutoffs will begin at about 2 p.m. in the Sierra Foothills region, 3 p.m. in North Bay counties, 1 a.m. Thursday in San Mateo and Kern counties.

Weather forecasts show that peak wind speeds will end at about noon Thursday in North Bay, San Mateo County and the Sierra Foothills, with peak wind periods expected to end at about noon Friday in Kern County.

Power will only be restored to the areas once PG&E has a chance to inspect the de-energized power lines once the high winds subside, according to a company press release.

According to the utility company, power will be safely restored “in stages as quickly as possible.”

PG&E expects to have power restored for the majority of customers within 48 hours after the hot, dry and windy weather has passed.

Financially speaking, the preventative power outages will cost the utility company an estimated $2 billion, which includes both commercial and residential customer impact, according to estimates by Michael Wara of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

PG&E filed bankruptcy in January after announcing it was facing more than $30 billion in liabilities because its power lines’ helped ignite the deadly Camp Fire in Butte County, California, last year. The fires killed 85 people led to $16.5 billion in damages.