SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) cut power to thousands of northern California residents Monday night to lessen the risk of its equipment starting a wildfire while weather conditions are dry and windy.
About 24,000 customers were in the dark across Butte, Nevada and Yuba counties, the company said in a news release.
“After the dry and windy weather has passed and it is safe to do so, likely on Tuesday morning, PG&E crews will work to visually inspect each mile of our power lines to ensure they are free from damage and safe to energize,” the company said.
The power is expected to be restored within 24 to 48 hours, the company said, but the outage may take longer depending on weather conditions.
In May, California regulators passed down new rules to utilities about intentionally cutting power to prevent wildfires. The California Public Utilities Commission previously said the state’s investor-owned electric utilities could proactively interrupt power to reduce the chances that their equipment could cause or contribute to a wildfire.
A utility might do so in high winds, for example.
Peak fire risk is forecast to last until Wednesday morning, PG&E said. The company said it will make a final decision whether to initiate a second shutoff late Tuesday morning.
Earlier this month, the utility giant settled with insurance companies for $11 billion for claims stemming from the devastating 2017 wildfires in northern parts of the state, as well as the 2018 Camp Fire.
And in June, the company paid $1 billion in damages to local governments for blazes linked to its power lines, poles and other equipment.
The company has previously said it’s “probable” that its equipment started the 2018 Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive, when a power line touched nearby trees. By April, it had cited at least $7 billion in claims from that wildfire.
A probe by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had previously found PG&E responsible for the 2018 Camp Fire — which killed 85 and destroyed thousands of structures.
The agency said it was the electrical lines owned and operated by PG&E that started the fire.
“The tinder dry vegetation and Red Flag conditions consisting of strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures promoted this fire and caused extreme rates of spread, rapidly burning” through parts of California, CAL Fire said.