SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric began shutting off power to about 25,000 customers in parts of northern and central California early Monday as high winds threatened to damage its equipment and potentially ignite wildfires.
Forecasters issued a red flag warning for extreme fire danger as winds gusted up to 55 mph (89 kph) in mountains and 25 to 45 mph (39 to 72 kph) in valleys. The warning extends until late Tuesday. The strongest winds are expected most of Monday, said Hannah Chandler-Cooley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
The planned outages are necessary because high winds, combined with low humidity and drought-ravaged vegetation, could raise the risk of trees falling on power lines and spark a fast-spreading wildfire, PG&E said in a statement.
Strong winds knocked down a tree, destroying three parked cars and damaging a home in the coastal town of El Granada in San Mateo County, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
No one was injured, but photos from the scene showed that the tree also took down power lines.
PG&E said it expects to begin restoring power Tuesday afternoon.
The utility began intentionally shutting off power in the fall of 2019 to prevent wildfires, after an investigation determined the Camp Fire that wiped out most of the town of Paradise was sparked by its equipment. The company filed for bankruptcy and pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the 2018 fire.
PG&E also faces numerous criminal charges for fires caused by its fraying equipment, including involuntary manslaughter charges filed last month in connection to a wildfire near the city of Redding last year that killed four people.
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