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PG&E warns of safety blackouts in Northern California as hot, dry weather persists

A home burns on Highway 89 south of Greenville, California, near Forgay Road during the Dixie fire on Aug. 5, 2021. (Nathaniel Levine/Sacramento Bee/TNS)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With more critical wildfire weather looming, PG&E Corp. has warned it might shut off power to thousands of Northern Californians late Tuesday.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., already under investigation in connection with the massive Dixie fire, said it might impose a blackout Tuesday night to 39,000 homes and businesses in 16 counties stretching from Mendocino to Yolo.

About two-thirds of the affected customers would be in Butte and Shasta counties.

The company didn’t say exactly when the public safety power shutoff would begin or how long it would last.

PG&E was driven into bankruptcy by a series of wildfires, capped by the horrific 2018 Camp fire in Butte County, and while it successfully emerged from Chapter 11, it remains under enormous pressure to prevent further big fires. Still, state and local officials blame the company for the 2019 Kincade fire in Sonoma County and last year’s fatal Zogg fire in Shasta County.

Cal Fire is investigating whether the Dixie fire — burning through 569,707 acres, making it the second largest in state history — was started by a tree making contact with PG&E’s equipment. No one has died, but the fire destroyed much of the historic business district in the tiny Plumas County community of Greenville.

The National Weather Service has issued a “fire weather watch” for much of the Sacramento Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, as hot, dry conditions mix with wind gusts of as much as 35 mph. Earlier this year PG&E officials said the drought has accelerated the start of the wildfire season by a month or two.

Besides Butte and Shasta, the company warned the blackout could affect the following counties: Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Napa, Plumas, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo and Yuba.

©2021 The Sacramento Bee. Visit at sacbee.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.