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PG&E shut off power to 48,200 customers in northern California because of wildfire risk

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.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

About 48,200 northern California customers will be without power starting Wednesday morning due to wildfire risks, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) announced on Tuesday.

The outage is a precaution to lessen the risk of the company’s equipment starting a wildfire during especially dry and windy conditions.

It is the second consecutive public safety power shutoff that PG&E has initiated this week. The shutoff affects seven counties: Butte, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sonoma and Yuba, the company said in a press release.

The shutoff is scheduled to start in the early morning hours, and windy weather conditions are expected to last until noon Wednesday, according to PG&E.

On Monday, about 24,000 customers were in the dark across Butte, Nevada and Yuba counties, the company said. Power was restored by 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

“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.

Elsewhere in the state, Southern California Edison has 152,500 customers under consideration for a public safety power shutoff for potentially dangerous weather conditions in fire-prone areas, according to the company’s website. On Tuesday, 141,500 were under consideration, but power was shut off to only 85 customers.

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.

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.

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