SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Two years to the day after deadly wildfires tore through Northern California wine country, a utility announced Tuesday that it would shut off power to more than 800,000 customers in the largest preventive outage in state history — to try to prevent wildfires caused by faulty power lines.
With windy, dry weather in the forecast and warnings of extreme fire danger, Pacific Gas & Electric said it would start turning off power to 34 counties in northern and central California after midnight Wednesday.
The Southern California Edison utility website said more than 106,000 of its customers in parts of eight counties could face power cuts.
It may take “several days to fully restore power after the weather passes and safety inspections are completed,” said Michael Lewis of PG&E.
The counties affected include an area north of San Francisco where several fires two years ago killed 22 people and destroyed thousands of homes.
“We’re encouraging our community to be as prepared as possible,” said Jaina French, spokeswoman for the city of Napa.
The outage will also affect portions of the agricultural Central Valley, California’s northern and central coasts, and the Sierra Nevada foothills where last November a wildfire blamed on PG&E transmission lines killed 85 people and devastated the town of Paradise.
Ben Humphries, who moved to Oroville with his family after losing his home in that blaze, said there was a sense of irony to PG&E’s aggressive action in the area now, after the company opted to not to turn off the power ahead of the Nov. 8 fire that wiped out the town of Paradise.
“I understand their concerns, but in my opinion it’s too little, too late. We already had our town burned to the ground,” Humphries said.