A utility company could turn off electricity for about 89,500 of its customers in Southern California in an effort to avoid wildfires as hot, dry and windy conditions hit the region Tuesday.
Southern California Edison is currently considering a “public safety power shutoff” for the following areas:
Los Angeles County (about 9,000 customers)
- Lancaster, Palmdale
- The unincorporated areas of Acton, Agua Dulce, Altadena, Appletree Flat, Boiling Point, Jackson Lake, Juniper Hills, Leona Valley, Littlerock, Llano, Pearblossom, Portal Ridge and Valyermo
Riverside County (about 35,000 customers)
- Banning (including Banning Pass, Owl and unincorporated areas east of Banning and between Beaumont and Banning), Calimesa (including unincorporated areas), Hemet (including East Hemet and unincorporated areas), Idyllwild-Pine Cove, Menifee, Moreno Valley (including unincorporated areas), Perris and San Jacinto
- Unincorporated areas including Cabazon, portions of Desert Hills Outlet Mall, Big Oaks Canyon, Mons, Ramona Bowl, San Jacinto Valley and east of Riverside
- Unincorporated areas near Diamond Valley Lake, Egan, Sycamore Springs, and Lake Perris North Shore
San Bernardino County (about 42,000 customers)
- Apple Valley, Big Bear Lake, Calimesa, Fontana, Highland, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands**, Rialto, San Bernardino, Yucaipa** (including Yucaipa Valley and unincorporated areas), Yucca Valley
- Unincorporated areas near Santa Ana River and north of Big Bear Lake
- Unincorporated areas including the communities of Angeles Oaks, Arrowbear Lake, Big Oaks Canyon, Cedarpines, Cedarpines Park, Crestline, Devore, Doble, Dunlap Acres, Etiwanda, Forest Falls, Little Morongo Heights, Lytle Creek, Mountain Home, North Bench, Palm Wells, Pioneertown, Pinezanita, Rimrock, Running Springs, Seven Oaks, Snow Peak, Upper Holcomb Valley, Valley of Enchantment and Valley View Park
Kern County (about 3,500 customers)
- Unincorporated areas including Antelope Valley and the community of Lake Isabella.
Santa Barbara County (about 240 customers)
- Unincorporated areas including the community from Gaviota to Point Concepcion
Customers can visit SoCal Edison’s website to see maps outlining the specific areas that could be affected. Those who wish to receive outage alerts from the utility can sign up here. Customers can also call 800-655-4555 for the latest information.
“Turning off our customers’ power is not something we take lightly, but PSPS events are one of the ways we can better ensure the safety of the public, our customers, and our employees,” the company said.
In July, SoCal Edison announced that it planned to contribute $2.4 billion to a new state fund that would cover up to $40 billion in claims in future fires caused by utility equipment. It’s the first major power company in California to join the program, which also requires utilities to meet new safety standards and fund fire prevention efforts.
SoCal Edison serves about 15 million people across 15 counties in California.
Santa Ana winds are in the forecast Tuesday night through Wednesday morning, bringing critical fire danger for L.A. and Ventura county mountains and valleys, the National Weather Service said.
Temperatures could soar to the 90s and hit 103 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, with a heat advisory in effect from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Relative humidity could drop to 8 to 15%.
Santa Ana winds late tonight – Wed AM! Elevated to brief critical fire danger for the LA/Ventura Co. mountains and valleys during this time. Use extra caution when out in areas with dry grass or brush! #SoCal #CAwx pic.twitter.com/zLBD76TE4S
— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) September 24, 2019
— LAFD Talk (@LAFDtalk) September 24, 2019
“Humidity levels are dropping, and winds are picking up,” said Eric Kurth, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. “The main threat is overnight when the winds pick up in the mountains and foothills.”
Some of the most destructive blazes in the state in the past two years were started by Pacific Gas & Electric power lines. Winds can knock down live wires and power poles or drive trees and other vegetation into contact with them.
PG&E cut electrical service to 24,000 customers in three counties in the Sierra Nevada foothills Monday evening, saying power will remain off until weather conditions improve.
Red Flag Warning in effect through Wednesday.
A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. Strong winds that are warm and dry can contribute to extreme fire behavior. Practice fire safety #CAwx #OneLessSpark pic.twitter.com/EzuB3NHFuj
— NWS Sacramento (@NWSSacramento) September 24, 2019
PG&E first cut off power preemptively last October, affecting some 87,000 customers. The move prompted complaints and demands for reimbursement.
But the utility canceled plans to shut off power ahead of the deadly Nov. 8 blaze that started near Paradise.
An investigation by Cal Fire said transmission lines owned and operated by the utility started the fire that wiped out nearly 15,000 homes.
California regulators in May approved allowing utilities to cut off electricity to avoid catastrophic wildfires but said utilities must do a better job ramping up preventive efforts and educating and notifying the public, particularly people with disabilities and others who are vulnerable.
In January, PG&E sought bankruptcy protection, saying it could not afford an estimated $30 billion in potential damages from lawsuits stemming from catastrophic wildfires.
Earlier this month, PG&E agreed to pay $11 billion to insurance companies holding 85% of the claims from fires that include the Paradise blaze.
The settlement, confirmed Monday, is subject to bankruptcy court approval.
It’s important for PG&E to pull itself from bankruptcy protection because it will be a big part of a wildfire fund set up to help California’s major utilities pay future claims as climate change makes wildfires more frequent and severe.