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Tens of thousands without power in California after wildfire blackout

By
Don Jacobson
Smoke from fires in Northern California lowers visability of the Bay Bridge and San Francico as viewed from Yerba Buena Island on October 2. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in Northern California were without electricity early Friday after a statewide utility curtailed power transmission due to heightened wildfire danger.

Pacific Gas and Electric turned off power to tens of thousands of customers this week as hot, dry and windy weather made conditions ripe for wildfires triggered by faulty electrical equipment.

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Original estimates had called for as many as 53,000 customers in 24 counties to be affected, mostly affecting areas in and around San Francisco Bay and the northern Sierra Nevada foothills.

By early Friday, more than 30,000 remained without power. Essentially all of those customers will have their power restored by the end of the day, PG&E said in an update.

Weather conditions improved Thursday, allowing the utility's meteorology team to issue "all clear" notices to some of the affected areas. Electric crews began visual inspections of power lines in those areas as the first step toward restoration.

Since the beginning of the year, 8,500 wildfires have burned more than 4 million acres in California, killing 31 people and destroying more than 9,200 structures, according to state fire officials.

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Power lines have been a frequent source of wildfires in California.

State authorities investigated this week whether PG&E equipment might have caused the deadly Zogg Fire, which killed four people and destroyed more than 200 structures in Shasta County, north of San Francisco.

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