SoCal Utility Warns Winds Could Spur Pre-Emptive Blackouts

(CN) – Southern California Edison warned customers Wednesday that a windy forecast means pre-emptive blackouts could be on the way to avoid catastrophic wildfires throughout the region.

In this Friday photo, a helicopter drops water while battling a wildfire called the Saddle Ridge Fire in Porter Ranch, Calif. Fire officials say a destructive fire that broke out on the edge of Los Angeles began beneath a high-voltage transmission tower. The destructive fire that broke out on the edge of Los Angeles began beneath a high-voltage transmission tower owned by Southern California Edison, fire officials said Monday. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

The utility notified a little more than 33,000 customers in several counties across Southern California that they could lose power in the coming days to avoid wildfires sparked by downed power lines, strong winds and dry vegetation.

A spokesperson with SoCal Edison said power shutoffs could begin Thursday and Friday as strong winds with gusts of 40-60 mph are expected for Santa Barbara County.

In addition to 6,700 customers in Santa Barbara, the advisory was sent to 1,600 customers in Kern County, 2,900 in Los Angeles County and 13,400 in Mono County.

According to the National Weather Service in Los Angeles, strong winds and dry vegetation mean red-flag warnings in several areas throughout Southern California through the weekend and into next week.

The advisory was sent out as firefighters in Los Angeles County continue to battle the 8,300-acre Saddleridge Fire, which is about 46% contained. The fire flared up in northwest Los Angeles on Oct. 9, after residents reported flames near an electrical tower maintained and operated by SoCal Edison according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The utility notified state regulators this week that a piece of equipment in the area experienced problems around the time the wildfire is thought to have started, but an official cause has not been determined.

Last week, 738,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers sat in the dark following pre-emptive shutoffs to large pockets of Northern California amid dry and windy weather.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday that PG&E should give customers a $100 rebate for their hardships, while the California Public Utilities Commission has called for an emergency meeting to hear from company executives regarding the shutoffs and gaps in the company’s power grid.

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