Two years to the day after some of the deadliest wildfires tore through Northern California wine country, a utility announced Tuesday it will shut off power to more than 800,000 customers in the largest preventive outage in state history—to try to prevent wildfires caused by faulty power lines. With windy, dry weather in the forecast and warnings of extreme fire danger, Pacific Gas & Electric utility said it will start turning off power to 34 counties in northern and central California after midnight Wednesday, the AP reports. The Southern California Edison utility website said more than 106,000 of its customers in parts of eight counties could face power cuts. It may take "several days to fully restore power after the weather passes and safety inspections are completed," said Michael Lewis, senior vice president of PG&E's electric operations, in statement.
The number of customers and counties affected includes an area of wine country north of San Francisco where several fires two years ago killed 22 people and destroyed thousands of homes. San Francisco is the only county in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area where power will not be affected. The outage will also affect portions of the agricultural Central Valley, the state's northern and central coasts, and the Sierra Nevada foothills where a November wildfire blamed on PG&E transmission lines killed 85 people and devastated the town of Paradise. Public agencies throughout the region were urging people to prepare by buying water and non-perishable food, getting a full tank of gas, having cash at hand, and parking vehicles outside garages or making sure they know how to manually open their garage doors. "What's wrong with the power lines that they have to do this so much?" wondered one local who lost her home in Paradise and has already been through two blackouts in the past month.
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