PG&E Restores Power to 20,000 in Butte and Yuba Counties After Proactive Shutdown

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Shutting off power during times of extreme fire danger is part of PG&E's new wildfire mitigation plan.  (Anne Wernikoff/KQED)

Updated Monday, 8 a.m.

PG&E said that power has been restored to nearly all of the approximately 20,000 customers in Butte and Yuba counties whose power was preemptively shut off on Saturday due to high fire danger.

A PG&E spokesman said that as of 8 p.m. Sunday, power had been restored to all customers in Yuba County and 80% of customers in Butte County.

The utility was initially set to shut down power in portions of Butte, Yuba, Nevada, El Dorado and Placer counties starting at 9 p.m. Saturday, but said in a statement Saturday night that "more favorable weather changes in other parts of the region" led to the scaling back of the shutdown.

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PG&E says it has 260 personnel out inspecting 800 miles of power lines to ensure they are safe to turn back on. The utility says it expects to restore all power within 24 to 48 hours.

"We appreciate our customers’ and the public’s patience as we work through this important safety step in the restoration process,” said Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of electric operations, in a statement.

PG&E is operating a community resource center at Harrison Stadium in Oroville from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday to provide "restrooms, bottled water, electronic device charging and air-conditioned seating for up to 100 customers each" for those effected by the Sierra Foothills shutdown.

Early on Saturday morning, PG&E cut the power to some 1,600 customers in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties due to high fire risk in the area. The utility announced Saturday night that power had been restored to all of those customers, after initially saying it would take 24 to 48 hours to do so.

That outage affected parts of unincorporated Napa County and Lake Berryessa, parts of Suisun City, unincorporated areas near Vacaville and Winters, and unincorporated areas near Davis and Winters.

For both shutdowns, the utility says it is contacting effected customers by phone, text and email. Customers can also type their address into PG&E's outage map to see if they are covered by the shutdown.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the North Bay mountains on Friday night that lasts through Sunday afternoon, meaning that any fires that start could spread quickly due to high winds, high temperatures and low humidity. The agency has also put much of the Bay Area under a heat advisory on Sunday with record and near-record temperatures in the triple digits forecast for much of the region.

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The preemptive shutoffs are part of PG&E's new state-mandated wildfire mitigation plan. There is no set criteria for when the utility will preemptively cut power, but PG&E says red flag warnings, low humidity and high winds could lead them to power down.

Utilities decide when and where they want to shut down power, and are supposed to notify emergency responders within two to three days of a potential shutoff and customers within 24 to 48 hours.

Over the past two years, fires caused by electrical facilities have killed more than 130 people and burned more than 20,000 homes statewide.

PG&E's equipment has been found responsible for starting the most devastating wildfire in California history — last November's Camp Fire in Butte County, which killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes.

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