SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Pacific Gas & Electric could cut off electricity to more than 1 million people on Sunday to prevent the possibility of spark fires as extreme fires return to the region, the company said Friday.
The country’s largest utility company said it could eclipse customers in 38 counties – including most of the San Francisco Bay Area – as weather forecasts call for a return to dry, gusty weather that threatens to bring down or contamination of power lines or other equipment that in recent years have been blamed for igniting massive and deadly flames in Central and Northern California.
The security shutdown was expected to begin as early as Sunday morning and continue until Tuesday, affecting 466,000 homes and businesses, or more than 1
The sections are thought to cover parts of the Sacramento Valley, northern and central Sierra Nevada, the upper San Francisco Bay Area, the Santa Cruz Mountains, the central coast and parts of southern Kern County.
The projected shutdowns include 19,000 customers in parts of Butte County, where a 2018 fire by PG&E equipment destroyed much of Paradise City and killed 85 people.
The forecasts call for “the driest humidity levels and the strongest winds in the forest fire season so far,” a PG&E statement said.
The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings for many areas, forecasting winds of 56 mph (56 km / h) or higher in San Francisco and lower altitudes to 70 mph (113 km / h). in some mountains. The concern is that any spark could be blown into flames engulfed by a dry brush and forest earth.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, this event is 9,” Craig Clements, director of the Fire Weather Lab at San Jose State University, told Bay Area News Group. “Historically, our biggest fires are in October. We are in a critical period. “
The National Weather Service said conditions could catch up with conditions during the devastating windstorms in California in 2017 and last year’s Kincade fire.
Firefighters said PG&E transmission lines caused a fire in Sonoma County last October that destroyed hundreds of homes and fled nearly 100,000 people.
The public power outage, or PSPS, will be the fifth this year, including what began on Wednesday and was due to end late Friday.
The upcoming weather forecast will be even more dangerous, said Scott Strenfell, the utility company’s chief meteorologist.
“We see four extremes in time for this potential PSPS event: extremely strong winds, extremely low humidity, extreme dry fuels due to the hottest average temperatures in the last six months according to records for 126 years and extreme drought through the territory due to lack of rainfall,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Southern California continued to cool with uneven rain. Forecasters said light rain is expected on Saturday early Monday, with light mountain snow possible on Sunday night, followed by winds in Santa Ana.
Eight of the 10 deadliest fires in California’s history occurred in October or November. Some of the biggest have also happened since August this year.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, said 5,500 firefighters work Friday to fully control 19 fires. Two dozen new fires were contained on Thursday, despite the conditions of the red flag. Numerous studies have linked major forest fires in America to climate change from burning coal, oil and gas.
Scientists say climate change has made California much drier, which means trees and other plants are more flammable.
More than 8,600 wildfires have burned more than 6,400 square miles (16,576 square miles) and destroyed about 9,200 buildings in California this year. There are 31 deaths.
All huge fires are completely or significantly limited, but more than 6,000 firefighters remain involved in 19 fires, including a dozen major incidents, Cal Fire said.
Many of this year’s devastating fires were caused by thousands of dry lightning strikes. But some of the fires remain under investigation for potential electrical causes.
This story has been corrected to show that the utility program can, not will, reduce the capacity of more than 1 million people.