Nearly 53,000 PG&E customers in California begin losing power over fire danger

Taylor Martinez

(CNN) — A California utility company has begun shutting off power to nearly 53,000 customers as hot, dry and windy weather threatens to spark yet more fires.

Wildfires in California have burned over 4.1 million acres in the state this year and claimed the lives of 31 people, according to Cal Fire. As a response to the onset of weather conditions favorable to fanning fires, Pacific Gas and Electric, which has been blamed for the deadly 2018 Camp Fire, is shutting off the power to prevent its equipment from sparking blazes.

The Public Safety Power Shutoff, or PSPS, spans 24 counties in Northern California.

The first phase, which began at 6 p.m. Wednesday, will impact about 33,000 customers in the Northern Sierra Foothills and North Bay Mountains, affecting Butte, Lake, Napa, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Yolo and Yuba counties, PG&E said in a news release Wednesday.

The second phase will begin later at 8 p.m., affecting approximately 19,000 customers in portions of counties in the Sierra Foothills, Bay Area and Santa Cruz Mountains, including Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Monterey, Nevada, Placer, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Sierra counties.

The third phase, which starts Thursday, will affect approximately 700 customers in parts of Amador, Calaveras, Humboldt and Trinity counties.

PG&E expects to restore power to all affected customers by Friday night, according to the release.

PG&E officials said during a news conference that while this event affects fewer customers compared to previous similar events, it covers a larger portion of counties.

Last year, a PSPS from the company impacted about 738,000 customers, the company said. Some were left in the dark for days, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who demanded the company provide rebates or credits.

“We understand that power shutoffs are more than an inconvenience for our customers and we did not live up to their expectations when it came to communicating this event,” Bill Johnson, the company’s CEO said in a statement.

“It’s important to remember that the sole purpose of these power shutoffs is to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the communities that we serve.”

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