California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) cut off power to parts of 22 counties in northern California Wednesday. Roughly 500,000 customers have been affected by the outage, and numerous schools have cancelled classes.
Here’s why: PG&E says the shutdowns are to avoid sparking a wildlife. High winds, like those currently sweeping across Northern California, raise the risk for wildfire.
On Wednesday, the vice president of PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program said: “We took this step to ensure safety as a last resort, and we are committed to reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire events.”
The wind is expected to subside Friday. Then, PG&E crews will examine their system for damage and begin to restore power for customers left in the dark
Some context: PG&E has agreed to pay billions of dollars in damages for its role in a series of disastrous California wildfires—including the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California’s history.
Studies have linked climate change to the increase in size of California’s destructive wildfires. Since the early 1970s, California wildfires have increased in size by eight times and the annual burned area has grown by nearly 500%, one study found.