PG&E cutting power in California’s wine country to prevent fires

PG&E workers disassemble broken power lines on Nov. 15 after the Camp fire ripped through Paradise, Calif.
(Joel Angel Juarez / Zuma Press/TNS)

PG&E Corp. is plunging hundreds of homes and businesses across wine country and other parts of Northern California into darkness as high winds threatened to knock down its power lines and spark wildfires.

PG&E has decided to switch off service to 1,600 customers in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties through at least Saturday afternoon, the San Francisco-based company said in a statement late Friday. The utility had already warned earlier that same day that thousands of residents and businesses could be blacked out as the National Weather Service warned of a heightened fire risk.

The blackout is the first to hit Northern California during this year’s wildfire season. PG&E has been preparing to take its most extreme measures yet to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic wildfires that have ravaged the state for two consecutive years. In November, its equipment ignited the Camp fire that killed 85 people and destroyed the entire town of Paradise. Liabilities from that blaze and previous ones forced PG&E to file for bankruptcy in January.

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An earlier series of wildfires devastated parts of wine country in October 2017, burning down thousands of homes and killing 44 people.

Last week, California regulators signed off on a plan by the utility to cut off power to, potentially, millions of homes and businesses when winds are strong and could knock down power lines. In approving the measure, regulators said blackouts should only be used as a last resort.

Chediak writes for Bloomberg.