In a now-familiar warning, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. notified hundreds of thousands of customers Monday that it may shut off power amid dry and windy conditions posing an increased fire risk.
The utility said 303,000 customers in parts of 25 counties in the Sierra foothills and north Bay Area — including Alameda, Butte, El Dorado, Marin, Mendocino and Yuba counties — may be without electricity starting Wednesday morning.
“PG&E will safely restore power in stages as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring most customers by end of day Thursday, based on the current weather conditions,” the utility said in a news release.
The increased fire danger comes as a low-pressure system descends over the Bay Area and into Southern California, bringing gusts from 30 to 55 mph and dry weather to Northern California, according to the National Weather Service.
The utility said it will open resource centers with restrooms, bottled water, air conditioning and device charging in the areas where power may be cut off.
The potential shutoff is the latest in a handful of preemptive strikes by PG&E in an attempt to prevent fires caused by their electrical equipment. Despite the efforts, the utility has reported to the California Public Utilities commission it detected activity or equipment failure near several fires that have ignited in the last several months, including the Kincade fire, which grew to more than 75,000 acres.
PG&E continues to be scrutinized by locals and public officials for the widespread shutoffs. California regulators have opened a formal investigation into the preemptive power outages, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has threatened to turn the utility into a customer-owned cooperative run by state and local governments.
“They simply did not do their jobs,” Newsom said at a news conference as the massive Kincade fire burned through dozens of homes. “It took us decades to get here, but we will get out of this mess. We will do everything in our power to restructure PG&E so they are a completely different entity when they get out of bankruptcy. Mark my words. It is a new day of accountability.”