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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Nearly 200,000 Californians in the dark as more wildfires erupt

As temperatures soared past 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, PG&E -- the utility giant that went bankrupt last year after its equipment ignited catastrophic blazes, began a shutoff that will leave parts of 16 counties out of power until the end of Monday.

September 28, 2020 10:18:51 am
California wildfire, Northern California, California givernment, California wildfire deaths, California wildfire evacuations, world newsThe fire threat forced Adventist Health St. Helena hospital to suspend care and transfer all patients elsewhere. (AP/File)

PG&E Corp. was cutting power to about 195,000 people across Northern California in an attempt to keep its power lines from sparking wildfires amid another round of extreme heat, dry weather and high winds. Blazes still erupted, triggering evacuations and burning thousands of acres.

As temperatures soared past 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, PG&E — the utility giant that went bankrupt last year after its equipment ignited catastrophic blazes, began a shutoff that will leave parts of 16 counties out of power until the end of Monday. The National Weather Service has been warning that the risk of wildfires across the region would increase late Saturday evening and remain through Monday.

“The combination of wind, low humidity, and hot conditions will result in extreme fire weather conditions,” the weather service said. Temperatures in parts of Southern California were forecast to reach as high as 105 degrees through Thursday.

It’s the latest hardship for a state that’s been battered this year by increasingly extreme weather brought on by climate change and ensuing blackouts. Last month, a record-breaking heat wave triggered California’s first rotating power outages since the 2001 energy crisis — and was followed just three weeks later by another one. More than 8,000 wildfires have burned a record 3.7 million acres in the state this year, choking cities with smoke, killing at least 26 people and destroying more than 7,000 structures.

california wildfire, California fires, California, california wildfire news, wildfires in california, California heatwave, world news, World news Firefighters Nick Grinstead and Trevor While battle the Creek Fire in the Shaver Lake community of Fresno County, Calif on Sept. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

In Napa County, the Glass Fire broke out early Sunday and was raging uncontrollably, scorching at least 2,500 acres. The Zogg Fire in Shasta County had burned 7,000 acres. Both prompted evacuations.

Utilities across the U.S. West are increasingly cutting power ahead of wind storms to reduce the chances of their live wires igniting blazes. In Southern California, investigators are looking at a power line owned by Edison International’s Southern California Edison as part of their probe into a fire that’s burning in the mountains near Los Angeles.

Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric said Sunday it may also have to turn off power to 700 customers in the mountainous areas of San Diego county due to the expected arrival of Santa Ana winds.

PG&E’s latest round will impact about 65,000 homes and businesses, or about 195,000 people based on the size of the average California household. The first cuts began early Sunday. A second round was planned for later in the night, PG&E said in a briefing. All customers should have their power back on by the end of day on Monday, the company said.

The outages are considerably smaller in scope than previous ones. Earlier this month, PG&E cut power to about 172,000 homes and businesses — or about 516,000 people — as high winds raked California. PG&E emerged from bankruptcy in July after settling wildfire claims for $25.5 billion.

California’s peak wildfire season traditionally runs from September through November. but it has grown longer and less predictable in recent years, with blazes coming as late as December.

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