San Francisco Area Could Face Blackouts Next Week on Fire Risk

Utility giantPG&E Corp. said it may have to cut power early next week in parts of Northern California as hot, dry winds are expected to threaten the region.

PG&E warned that it could intentionally turn off electricity on Tuesday and Wednesday to residents who live in areas in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sierra Nevada foothills with high fire risks, according to a notice posted on itswebsite Saturday. If carried out, the outages would be the first of its kind executed by PG&E for this fire season.

The utility’s weather models show that warm, offshore winds are expected to develop on the heels of a dangerous heat wave that is gripping the state this weekend. The soaring temperatures will further dry out grasses, bushes and other vegetation, PG&E said. The heat is also posing a test for California’s grid operator, which warned of possiblepower shortages for Sunday due to high demand as people crank up their air conditioners.

California Blackout Risk Rising as Heat Wave Grips State

Years of deadly fires started by PG&E’s wires in wind storms forced California’s largest utility to file for bankruptcy protection last year. The company emerged in July after agreeing to pay $25.5 billion to settle wildfire lawsuits.

The utility drew the ire of public officials last fire season for the way it carried out shutoffs that left millions in the dark for days and hobbled parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. PG&E said the practice can reduce the risk of its power lines sparking catastrophic wildfires and has promised to reduce the size and scope of any shutoffs this year.

— With assistance by David R Baker

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