High-risk conditions could mean 50,000 PG&E customers will go dark

Electricity may be shut off to 50,000 Northern California utility customers this week to try to prevent power lines from sparking and igniting new wildfires during a predicted new round of gusty, hot and dry weather.

Customers in parts of 19 counties and in two tribal communities were notified Monday of a potential public safety power shutoff starting as early as Wednesday evening, Pacific Gas & Electric said.

The utility has better targeted outages to limit impact after it was criticized in 2019 for cutting power to about 800,000 customers — about 2 million people — for days. De-energized lines have to be inspected for damage before power can be restored.

PG&E said high-risk conditions are expected Wednesday evening through Friday primarily in the northern Sacramento Valley and nearby elevated terrain, the northern Sierra Nevada, the mountains north of San Francisco Bay and Mount Diablo in the East Bay.

More 8,600 wildfires have scorched well over 6,400 square miles this year. There have been 31 deaths and more than 9,200 buildings have been destroyed.

As of Monday, there were 7,400 firefighters on the lines 22 wildfires, including 12 still considered major incidents, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.