June 8 (Reuters) - Utility PG&E Corp proactively shut off power on Saturday to around 1,600 customers in northern California and said it might expand the shutdown to tens of thousands more due to an increased risk of wildfires.
The affected customers in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties will not have electricity until at least the afternoon, PG&E said, after forecasters said a combination of strong winds, dry conditions and warm temperatures had raised the fire danger in areas north of San Francisco.
Another 30,000 customers could have their power shut down as soon as Saturday evening in Butte, Yuba, Bevada, El Dorado and Placer counties, the utility said. The area includes portions of Paradise, the town that was destroyed by November’s deadly wildfire known as the Camp Fire.
PG&E said this year it would significantly expand the practice of shutting off power to communities at risk of wildfire when conditions demand it, despite objections from some consumer advocates who said such disruptions can harm vulnerable people such as those who need electricity for medical equipment.
The utility sought bankruptcy protection in January after facing billions of dollars in liabilities stemming from the Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire in modern times.
State investigators concluded that PG&E’s power lines caused the fire, which killed at least 85 people, leveled nearly 19,000 homes and other structures and caused some $16.5 billion in losses. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by David Gregorio)