Fire danger prompts PG&E to shut off power for North Bay customers

PG&E intentionally shut off power Sunday night for about 17,500 customers in Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties because of the extreme risk of fires, but said this morning that most of those customers will have their power restored by tonight.

The first-ever Public Safety Power Shutoff by PG&E began shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday, and less than an hour later the utility also proactively turned off power to about 42,000 customers in extreme fire-risk areas of Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras counties in the Sierra Foothills.

Of the affected customers, 5,757 are in Napa County in the areas of Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Napa, Pope Valley and Saint Helena, while about 415 are in the northeastern unincorporated areas of Sonoma County, PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said.

The shutoffs came after weather forecasts of wind gusts of 50 mph Sunday night into this morning that were expected to combine with low humidity and dry vegetation to create a high risk of fire danger.

“We know how much our customers rely on electric service, and we are temporarily turning off the power only in the interest of safety, and as a last resort due to the extreme weather conditions,” Doherty said.

PG&E crews will visually inspect power lines today for any necessary repairs before restoring power to the affected customers, according to Doherty.

Most customers are expected to have power by tonight, but the utility said some outages could last into Tuesday depending on weather conditions and whether repairs need to be made.

The outages have caused some school closures in the affected areas, including in Calistoga. The Calistoga Joint Unified School District sent out a message saying school is canceled for the day because of the shutoff.

In June, Cal Fire officials announced that PG&E’s equipment led to many of the wildfires that burned in Northern California in October 2017.

The Public Safety Power Shutoff is part of the utility’s Community Wildfire Safety Program to reduce wildfire risks.

PG&E and local officials began outreach late Saturday to customers via automated calls, text messages and emails about the potential of a power shutoff.

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