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PG&E shuts off power in Calif. counties facing high wildfire danger

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said Oct. 14 that it proactively shut off power in certain parts of Northern California facing "extreme fire risk."

The utility subsidiary of PG&E Corp. said that as of 8:48 p.m. PT Oct. 14, it had turned off power to customers in El Dorado, Amador, and Calaveras counties due to expected wind gusts of up to 50 mph. Approximately, 42,000 customers were affected, PG&E said in a tweet.

PG&E had warned earlier in the day that it would likely cut power to customers. In addition to El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras counties, warnings of potential power cuts were also sent to the counties of Lake, Napa, Sonoma, Yuba, Butte, Sierra, Placer, Nevada and Plumas.

The power cuts come amidst a push by the state's electric utilities, including Pacific Gas and Electric, Edison International subsidiary Southern California Edison Co. and Sempra Energy subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric Co., to limit their liability in the event that their electrical equipment ignites wildfires. Utilities in the state have been found liable for billions of dollars of wildfire damages sparked by electric utility equipment.

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 21 signed Senate Bill 901, which provides limited financial protection for investor-owned utilities, but utilities have said the new law did not provide enough relief from the financial burden of wildfires. In particular, the bill did not change the state's policy of "inverse condemnation," meaning that utilities and their shareholders could still be stuck with the costs of wildfire damages.