Authorities ordered at least 50,000 residents to evacuate towns near a massive Northern California wildfire Saturday, and the state's largest utility announced power shut-offs for an estimated 2.35 million people due to forecasts of severe winds and extreme fire danger, the AP reports. Two previous electricity shut-offs in recent weeks were carried out amid concern that gusty winds could disrupt or knock down power lines and spark devastating wildfires. Some gusts this weekend might reach 75 mph or higher as part of a "historic" wind event, the National Weather Service warned. Pacific Gas & Electric said a new wave of blackouts would be implemented in stages through Saturday afternoon and evening, affecting about 940,000 homes and businesses in 36 counties for 48 hours or longer.
The city of San Francisco was not in line for a blackout; shut-offs were ordered for most of the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, the wine country to the north and the Sierra foothills. The entire communities of Healdsburg and Windsor were ordered to evacuate ahead of strong winds that could lead to erratic fire behavior near the blaze burning in wine country. The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said it would be the biggest evacuation in the county in more than 25 years. PG&E's shut-off order came as firefighters battled fires in Northern and Southern California. A blaze Thursday destroyed at least six houses in the Santa Clarita area near Los Angeles and led to evacuation orders for up to 50,000 residents, although most were allowed back home after Santa Ana winds began to ease.
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