More than 31,000 Southern California Edison customers have lost their power Thursday as critical fire weather prompted the utility to cut service for many residents in an effort to prevent wildfires sparked by equipment.
SoCal Edison said it has shut off electricity for people living in Santa Paula, Fontana, Rialto, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, some unincorporated areas in Riverside and Los Angeles counties and other communities.
The utility initially cut services for about 15,000 customers in the early hours of Thursday, but it has been expanding the shutoffs throughout the day. By 6:45 p.m., the outages have affected about 31,156 customers.
At least 286,000 more across six counties were under consideration for power cuts, SoCal Edison said.
The blackouts have forced a number of schools in Ventura and San Bernardino counties to cancel classes.
Red flag warning through Friday evening
Santa Ana winds were forecast to strengthen early Thursday, with wind gusts expected to peak at 40 to 65 mph. Temperatures will range from 87 to 97 degrees and humidities could drop as low as 2 to 9%, according to the National Weather Service.
A red flag warning has been issued for much of L.A., Ventura, San Bernardino, Orange and Riverside counties effective through Friday evening.
A wind-driven fire ignited in San Bernardino early Thursday, forcing some evacuations.
In Northern California, a blaze also pushed by strong winds exploded overnight in Sonoma County, burning 15 square miles and forcing some 1,700 residents to evacuate. About 500,000 people served by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in that region have been experiencing rolling blackouts in an effort by the utility to prevent wildfires, the Associated Press reported.
Forecasters expect conditions to cool down next week after days of heat wave in Southern California.
Temperatures in Anaheim reached 103 degrees on Tuesday, the second day in a row that the city recorded the hottest temperature in the U.S.
Gov. Newsom blasts utility companies
Gov. Gavin Newsom was in downtown L.A. Thursday to discuss the preventative power outages implemented by utilities.
He slammed PG&E for recently being unable to keep its website up and handle the number of calls it was receiving, forcing state officials to provide additional resources, Newsom added.
The company has since ramped up efforts against wildfire threats, according to the governor.
SoCal Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric should also "get serious" working with California officials to set up and adhere to wildfire weather protocols, Newsom said.
"I assure you, folks would be held accountable," the governor told reporters.
A later statement from the governor's office said Newsom sent a letter to PG&E, SoCal Edison and SDGE that said, "Going forward, it is critical that your utilities adhere to the agreements and protocols to provide transparent and consistent notification to state and local government officials, to provide adequately resourced Community Resource Centers, and to plan for and meet the needs of your vulnerable customers."
Meanwhile, the public should not place the blame on utility crews who are working to ensure their safety, said Newsom, referring to Northern California incidents in which residents were apparently taking out their frustration on PG&E employees.