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PG&E begins next round of blackouts to prevent California wildfires

By Danielle Haynes
PG&E begins next round of blackouts to prevent California wildfires
The sun glows through smokey skies behind high tension electricy towers in Butte County, Calif., on November 17. File  Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 23 (UPI) -- California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric began cutting electricity to some 179,000 accounts Wednesday to prepare for dry, windy conditions that could spark wildfires in the state.

The power outages will affect customers in 17 counties primarily near Sacramento and San Francisco.

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"The shutoffs are expected to begin around 2 p.m. in the Sierra Foothills, 3 p.m. in the North Bay counties, and approximately 1 a.m. Thursday in affected areas of San Mateo and Kern counties," PG&E said.

"Once the high winds subside, PG&E will inspect the de-energized lines to ensure they were not damaged during the wind event, and then restore power. PG&E will safely restore power in stages as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring the vast majority of customers within 48 hours after the weather has passed."

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The announcement come as forecasters predict hot, dry and windy weather conditions in the region, which can cause sparks on the electric system.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection blamed electrical transmission lines owned by PG&E for the Camp Fire in 2018. The blaze was the most destructive and deadliest in California's history, killing 85 people.

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PG&E carried out blackouts earlier this month to millions of customers in response to unfavorable weather conditions. CEO Bill Johnson warned last week that the state could see regular outages over the next decade, though nothing as frequent or widespread as what has taken place this month.

RELATED PG&E apologizes for California blackouts: 'We were not prepared'

Despite the power outages, the Saddleridge Fire sparked Oct. 10 in Southern California. Investigators haven't determined a cause for the blaze, but said it started in an area near a high-voltage transmission tower owned by Southern California Edison, which didn't carry out blackouts.

As of Tuesday, the blaze had consumed 8,799 acres and was 97 percent contained.

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