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PG&E cut power to 11,000 customers in Butte County early Sunday, plans to extend outages to 54,000 more

A Pacific Gas & Electric lineman repairs a power line in Paradise, Calif., in 2018.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to 11,000 customers in Butte County early Sunday and planned to extend the outages to 54,000 more customers in the Central Sierra by Sunday evening, as dry, unseasonably hot conditions and strong winds continue to increase fire danger across much of Northern California, officials announced Sunday morning.

There was a sliver of good news in the update by PG&E, as the outages announced Sunday will affect far fewer customers than the utility had planned just a day earlier — a total of 65,000 customers potentially left without power in parts of 16 counties, down from the previous estimate of 89,000.

“The weather conditions have improved,” said Fiona Chan, a PG&E spokeswoman. “We are closely monitoring the situation.”

The second phase of the shut-off Sunday is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. and affect customers in Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama and Yuba counties.

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Fifteen customers in Kern County will be affected in the third phase around 7 a.m. Monday.

Power should be restored for all customers by Monday night, utility officials said.

The hardest hit county is El Dorado, home to Placerville and east of Sacramento, where more than 27,000 customers are expected to lose power. In Sonoma County, Chan said, only two customers will be affected.

Utility officials said that a “public safety power shut-off” is necessary because hot and dry conditions, combined with expected high wind gusts, pose an increased risk for electrical-system damage that could ignite fires in areas with dry vegetation. Gusts of up to 55 mph are expected in some areas.

Red flag warnings are now in effect for much of Northern California from 9 p.m. Saturday through Monday afternoon. The warnings cover from just above Redding southeast into the Sierra foothills, parts of the Sacramento Valley, and areas in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, including the North Bay mountains, East Bay hills and interior valleys.

David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, previously said a large area of high pressure covering almost the entire West Coast is expected to build over the weekend. Temperatures could climb 10 to 20 degrees above normal in some areas.

Officials said the forecast conditions — which include sustained winds, low humidity and summer-like temperatures — will make it easier for fires to both start and spread.

That’s unwelcome news in a region where crews are still working to contain some of the largest wildfires in California history.

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Those include the North Complex fire northeast of Oroville — which has burned more than 305,000 acres and has become one of the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history. Containment on that blaze is at 78%.

The mammoth August Complex fire has charred a state-record 870,000-plus acres in and around the Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers national forests, southwest of Redding. That blaze is 43% contained.


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