PG&E restores power to over 2 million California residents as wildfires rage

Josh Edelson  AFP  Getty Images
Businesses continue to burn under a darkened smokey sky in Paradise north of Sacramento Calif. Nov. 09 2018

Josh Edelson AFP Getty Images Businesses continue to burn under a darkened smokey sky in Paradise north of Sacramento Calif. Nov. 09 2018

Some people in the largely rural Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties and in Northern California's famed wine country counties were in their third day without electricity.

Fire danger is high throughout Southern California after the typically dry summer and early autumn, and the notorious Santa Ana winds - linked to the spread of many wildfires - bring a unsafe mix of witheringly low humidity levels and powerful gusts.

At least two other smaller wildfires prompted evacuations on Thursday as well. "Threat to railway and power grid", the fire department said.

PG&E said dry, windy weather might cause downed power lines to ignite fires.

Transmission lines operated by PG&E have been linked to wildfires that have decimated several California communities.

Over 500,000 PG&E customers were still waiting for power to come back on as of Thursday night.

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On Wednesday, shares of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company plunged significantly, hours after a Californian court ruled that victims of the 2017 Camp Fire have a right to offer alternative restructuring plans in pending bankruptcy protection.

At its peak, the outages affected 34 counties statewide, according to the Chronicle.

That figure was slightly below the 800,000 feared, which would have left 2 million people unplugged.

Approximately 233,000 customers in parts of nine counties in Southern California are also under the PSPS consideration, according to the company. Southern California Edison said Thursday night that it had begun shutting off power to about 45,000 people across its service area. As of 10 a.m. Thursday, it said that figure could grow to exceed 1 million, which would include about 3 million residents statewide.

Another 195,000 customers remain without power.

"Due to changing weather forecasts, PG&E now expects this event to impact approximately 4,000 customers". Newsom said that he thought customers should be compensated and that he was in discussions with the company. Residents were evacuated about an hour later. The Olivas fire quickly spread to 200 acres and was only 50 percent contained by Friday evening. Evacuations ordered for the Sanders Ranch neighborhood overnight were lifted later in the morning.

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Fire crews fully contained the blaze and are investigating the cause.

The fire has destroyed 31 homes and burned more than 7,500 acres, the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

"When the wind blows we have to turn the power off", Pickett said.

For days, California utility companies have been preemptively cutting off power out of fear that high wind gusts could blow power lines into trees, sparking risky fires.

The so-called Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) started after midnight Wednesday and could last several days, the utility warned on its website. Winds can knock down live wires and power poles or drive trees and other vegetation into contact with them.

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