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Utilities Cut Power To Prevent Wildfires


By Naomi Millán Power & Communication
Wildfire burning in Ventura, California.

Concern over red-flag conditions caused by the Santa Ana winds recently led two major California utilities to shut off power to over 87,000 customers in an effort to avoid sparking wildfires from power lines. The shut-off is the first time the power companies have cut power as a preventive measure, according to ABC News.

Pacific Gas & Electric, as well as San Diego Gas & Electric, shut off the power on Oct. 14, and 60,000 planned to be without power for several days. The utilities provided a 24-hour warning to customers of the potential blackout, saying power would be deployed as a last resort. Many schools in the affected areas closed due to the outage.

The Santa Ana winds are characterized by low humidity and gusty conditions, with wind gusts of 45-75 mph expected in the first gales of the fall wind season. A red-flag fire condition means a fire could easily start, spread rapidly, and burn intensely.

On Oct. 9, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said it had determined that the Cascade Fire in Yuba County in October 2017 was caused by sagging power lines making contact during heavy winds. That fire killed four people, destroyed 264 structures, and burned nearly 10,000 acres.

This Quick Read was submitted by Naomi Millán, senior editor, Building Operating Management.

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