500,000 Californians May Face Power Cuts as Fire Threat Looms

Some 500,000 residents of northern California could once again be plunged into darkness as the state’s largest power company mulls power cuts in an attempt to prevent wildfires.The warning from Pacific Gas & Electric comes just two weeks after the utility cut power to 2 million people, many for several days.This time, 15 counties in the Sierra foothills and the San Francisco Bay area could be affected starting Wednesday.The dry and windy conditions are prompting PG&E to take action so that its power lines or other equipment don’t malfunction and start a fire.FILE – Homes were leveled by the Camp Fire line the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community in Paradise, Calif., Dec. 3, 2018.PG&E has been using blackouts as a preventative measure ever since its power lines were blamed for a setting fires in northern California nearly a year ago that killed 86 people and burned 62 hectares. The town of Paradise was so devastated by the January fire that, by mid-July, only 2,034 residents — of nearly 27,000 before the fire — were living in the city.PG&E filed for bankruptcy earlier this year after the utility was found liable for igniting multiple fires. In September, PG&E reached an $11 billion settlement in those claims. A third group of claims is still working its way through state and federal courts.To avoid more legal fights, PG&E and other utilities companies decided to cut power during high-wind episodes. Based on conditions, power cuts could last up to six days.Climate change, years of drought, and the construction of houses and communities in wilderness areas have all contributed to the spate of intense and deadly fires in California in recent years, experts say.