High winds prompt PG&E to cut power to 25,000 in California

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Pacific Gas & Electric has started cutting power to approximately 25,000 customers in northern and central California as high winds knocked down trees, downed power lines and started at least one of many fires that forced people to flee their homes

SAN FRANCISCO – Pacific Gas & Electric began cutting power to about 25,000 customers in central and northern California on Monday and Southern California Edison warned it could do the same for up to 9,000 of its customers as high winds knocked down trees, downed power lines and ignited fires that forced people to flee their homes.

At least half a dozen fires, most of them small, broke out across the state, challenging firefighters as they tried to contain the flames amid the high wind.

West of Santa Barbara, authorities have ordered the mandatory evacuation of campsites, cattle and horse ranches near Refugio State Beach and have closed US 101 – the only highway along the coast – as the winds were pushing a fire that had started in the Los Padres National Forest towards the beach, US Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen said.

The blaze was propelled through a dense chaparral by winds blowing at 70 mph (112 km / h). It had grown to at least 4.5 square miles (12 square kilometers) by nightfall and was threatening possibly 100 homes, ranches and other buildings, authorities said.

About 200 firefighters were battling the flames and trying to protect homes and buildings, but the planes could not help as they were immobilized by the high winds, the firefighters said.

In the San Joaquin Valley, a grass fire north of Madera caused evacuations east of State Route 99. Meanwhile, Fresno firefighters rescued three people trapped in their home after the fall of ‘a tree.

California has already seen massive fires this year, including one that may have burned hundreds of giant sequoias in the groves of Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada. On Monday, a firefighter with a hand crew working on the blaze was hit by a rockfall. The firefighter was airlifted to a hospital and is in stable condition, firefighters said.

Forecasters have issued a red flag warning for extreme fire danger due to gusty winds. The warning extends until Tuesday evening. The strongest winds are expected most of Monday, said Hannah Chandler-Cooley, a meteorologist with the Sacramento National Weather Service.

The planned outages are necessary because high winds, combined with low humidity and drought-ravaged vegetation, could increase the risk of falling trees on power lines and trigger a rapidly spreading forest fire, PG&E said. in a press release. Heat waves and the historic drought associated with climate change have made wildfires more difficult to fight in California and the rest of the western United States.

On the central coast, a tree fell on power lines at Hearst San Simeon State Park, causing a small fire in the brush, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted.

Winds were expected to pick up Monday afternoon to evening in southern California, with gusts forecast of 80 to 113 km / h. SoCal Edison has begun cutting a customer’s power in parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties to reduce the threat of wildfires.

The National Weather Service said the blown dust was widespread from the Sacramento Valley, through the San Joaquin Valley and into the high desert Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles. Caltrans said sections of State Route 138 near the town of Lancaster in the Antelope Valley and State Route 14 were closed due to the dust storm and several overturned trucks blocking the roadway.

High winds toppled a tree, destroying three parked cars and damaging a house in the coastal town of El Granada, in San Mateo County, CalFire said.

No one was injured, but photos from the scene show the tree also destroyed power lines.

PG&E said it plans to start restoring power on Tuesday afternoon.

The utility began intentionally cutting power in the fall of 2019 to prevent wildfires, after an investigation determined that the campfire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise had been started. by its equipment. The company filed for bankruptcy and pleaded guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter related to the 2018 fire.

PG&E also faces numerous criminal charges for fires caused by its unraveling equipment, including manslaughter charges filed last month in connection with a wildfire near the town of Redding last year that killed four people.


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