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PG&E proactively cuts power to 1,600 due to red flag weather

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Pacific Gas & Electric cut power Saturday to about 1,600 customers in Northern California to reduce risk of wildfires amid windy, dry and warming weather conditions that raised the year’s first red flag warnings.

The utility said it began cutting power at 6 a.m. to portions of Napa, Solano and Yolo counties, an area northeast of the San Francisco Bay region.

The company also announced in advance that it may have to cut power to 30,000 customers in Butte, Yuba, Nevada, El Dorado and Placer counties.

Conditions ripe for fire — winds, low humidity, dry vegetation and heat — were expected to last into today. The National Weather Service said a station north of Sonoma reported gusts to 50 mph Saturday.

PG&E is under pressure to prevent fire starts after downed power lines and other equipment have been blamed for conflagrations that began during so-called fire weather.

But there has been opposition from customers who rely on electrically powered life-support equipment as well as businesses that have had to shut down for lack of power.

“We know how much our customers rely on electric service, and our decision tonight to turn off power is to protect our communities experiencing extreme fire danger,” Michael Lewis, PG&E’s senior vice president of electric operations, said in a statement Friday.

California experienced a very wet winter and spring, and even vast areas that were scorched earth after last year’s wildfires now have new head-high brush that is rapidly browning as summer approaches.

A Friday afternoon grass fire near the Solano County community of Fairfield forced people out of about 50 homes, but firefighters held it to 24 acres without any structures lost and evacuations were lifted.

A wildfire near Interstate 5 in Stanislaus County grew to nearly 1 square mile but it was 75 percent contained Saturday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.