California’s largest public utility announced Monday that large parts of northern California could face blackouts to prevent wildfires from starting.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced that it would shut off power in 29 counties for public safety reasons between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon, citing concerns that dry air and 30 mile per hour (mph) winds could spark wildfires in the region, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Fire officials and weather forecasters say the projected conditions for this week are a cause for concern.
“One thing we do have going this year — similar to 2017 — a lot of fine fuels that have dried up and cured,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Rowe. “What you really need is dry conditions, dry fuel and strong winds to promote fire growth.”
Northern California’s Diablo winds blasted over wine country on October 8, 2017, causing power lines and tree branches to knock into each other. This created a perfect storm for hot material to ignite the dry brush below and cause massive wildfires throughout the region.
More than 40 people died, and thousands lost their homes. PG&E announced in January that it would be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to financial liabilities in the dozens of billions.
The following counties could be affected by the planned power outages:
Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Mariposa, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba.
The state has also dedicated much of its funding to combat wildfires in the region. California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced in September 2018 that 98 percent of its budget for that year was spent to fight wildfires only halfway through wildfire season.