California utility cuts power as wildfire precaution

California utility cuts power as wildfire precaution
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A California electric utility has cut off power to thousands of customers in an attempt to prevent wildfires.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. workers started shutting off power Sunday north of San Francisco in advance of wind gusts that have hit 50 mph, combined with low humidity — factors that have led to major wildfires in the past, especially when in-service electricity lines are damaged.

PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said Monday morning that about 17,500 customers in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, and another 42,000 or so in Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras counties, were without service.

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“Nothing is more important than the safety of the communities and customers we serve,” Doherty said.

PG&E has been under public and legal scrutiny lately for recent major wildfires. Some of the Wine Country fires last year were attributed by the state to PG&E’s power lines, and the company could be liable under state law.

“It’s a new thing for PG&E and something we do as a last resort,” Doherty said of the shutoffs. The company notified customers and local officials Saturday that the shutoffs were likely.

Doherty added that most customers will likely have power restored by late Monday. But that will depend on weather conditions and the outcome of infrastructure inspections.