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PG&E outages leave tens of thousands without power as fires tear through Northern California

By Alex Wigglesworth and Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

ORINDA, Calif. - About 87,500 Pacific Gas & Electric customers in 16 California counties were without power Monday morning after the state's largest investor-owned utility preemptively de-energized some of its equipment to avoid sparking wildfires and shut off power at other locations because of blazes already burning.

Roughly 11,000 customers in Butte County were scheduled to lose power early Sunday, followed by 54,000 more customers in the Central Sierra on Sunday evening and 15,000 in Kern County on Monday morning, the utility said in a news release.

Tens of thousands of customers were also without power in Napa and Sonoma counties amid fires burning there.

In the Central Sierra, the planned outages were to include parts of 14 counties: Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama and Yuba.

Power that was shut off to prevent wildfires was to be restored for all customers by Monday night, utility officials said.

The shutoffs came as hot and dry Diablo winds moving in from the north and east have caused much of Northern California to be under a red-flag warning, with the National Weather Service forecasting continued dangerous fire weather conditions.

 

The warning is in effect until 9 p.m. Pacific time Monday, with forecasters predicting critically low humidity and wind gusts that could reach up to 50 mph at high elevations.

A series of fast-moving wind-driven wildfires are already besieging California's wine country, destroying numerous homes and other buildings in Napa and Sonoma counties overnight and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.

Crews were dispatched to the initial blaze, dubbed the Glass fire, near the rural community of Igo at 3:50 a.m. Sunday, and the fire quickly grew to 20 acres, then 50, then 800, said Tyree Zander, public information officer with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Napa-Lake-Sonoma Unit. The fire had burned 11,000 acres and expanded into Sonoma County by Monday morning.

Tamar Sarkissian, a spokesperson for PG&E, said Napa County had not been scheduled for a precautionary power outage until 5 p.m. Sunday, many hours after the start of the fire. But she said the utility had no reason to believe that its equipment sparked the blaze.

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