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Utility may cut power to 1 million Californians to reduce fire threat

Utility may cut power to 1 million Californians to reduce fire threat
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Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) on Sunday may cut off the power of more than 1 million Californians to prevent the chance of sparking wildfires.

The utility company issued the alert Friday, announcing it could black out customers in 38 counties across the Golden State, the Associated Press reported.

Weather forecasts call for extreme-dry and gusty weather across central and Northern California in the coming days, which has historically been responsible for igniting some wildfires due to downed powerlines or other equipment.

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Last October, fires sparked by downed power lines in Sonoma County destroyed hundreds of homes and caused nearly 100,000 people to evacuate.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued red flag warnings for several areas across the state, predicting 35 mph winds or higher in San Francisco and lower elevations, and up to 70 mph in some mountainous regions.

A single spark could be carried by the winds and ignite devastating fires.

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“On a scale of 1 to 10, this event is a 9,” Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Lab, told the Bay Area News Group, the AP reported.

“Historically, our biggest fires are in October. We are in a critical period,” said Clements.

PG&E said safety shutoffs could start as early as Sunday morning and stem into Tuesday, affecting nearly 466,000 homes and businesses.

Power cuts are predicted to occur in areas of Sacramento Valley, northern and central Sierra Nevada, higher elevations in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Central Coast, and sections of southern Kern County, said PG&E.

Fires have ravaged California this year worse than any previous season, scorching a record of four million acres.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also called Cal Fire, said 5,500 firefighters were working to douse and contain 19 wildfires Friday.

Twenty-four new fires were contained Thursday despite the red flag conditions, Cal Fire added.