Pre-emptive blackouts leave a million Californians without power as fire risk spreads

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The NWS forecasts wind gusts from 45 to 65 miles per hour across some parts of the area, saying the wind, coupled with low humidity and dry terrain, "will create critical fire weather conditions" for much of Thursday.

Musk also mentioned that the company is working to outfit its charging stations with solar power so that they can remain live even when facing utility issues.

But some 600,000 customers are still without electricity. The city of San Francisco and Silicon Valley are expected to be spared.

Another way to stop preemptive shutoffs during high-wind events would be moving power lines underground, said Wolfram - "but that's really, really expensive".

Residents, business owners and even public officials expressed frustration about the blackouts, which the utility began on a much smaller scale a year ago during times of high fire risk.

"Due to changing weather forecasts, PG&E now expects this event to impact approximately 4,000 customers".

In the Moraga fire, an evacuation order was temporarily in effect for the Sanders Ranch section of the town of some 18,000 residents in Contra Costa County. Evacuations ordered for the Sanders Ranch neighborhood overnight were lifted later in the morning.

Since PG&E was determined to be the root cause, "the burden of those liability claims, coupled with the state legislature [which] determined [PG&E] could not raise rates to pay for those, they couldn't use rate payer money to pay for those fire-related claims, they would have to use shareholder money", said Catherine Wolfram, who is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and an expert on energy policy with the campus' Energy Institute.

According to local media, the fire erupted late morning on Thursday and quickly burned at least 20 acres.

"We probably have to stop building in places where we're putting people at risk", Pincetl said.

The devastating wildfire in 2017, dubbed the Thomas Fire, was started by power lines coming into contact in high winds, said officials in March after a more-than-one-year probe.

The first phase, which began at 12 a.m. on Wednesday, impacts around 530,000 customers, the second phase affects power supply to another 234,000 customers from around 12 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, and a third phase is also being considered for the southernmost portions of PG&E's service area.

PG&E warned residents to prepare for outages that could last several days. It was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.

However in January, California fire investigators found a private electrical system, not PG&E, was responsible for the wine region blaze.

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