"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. Among the questions he raised was whether the utility is too large, with a service area covering more than 40 counties.
Residents, business owners and even public officials expressed frustration about the blackouts, which the utility began on a much smaller scale a year ago during times of high fire risk.
"Once the weather subsides and it is safe to do so, PG&E crews will begin patrolling power lines, repairing damaged equipment and restoring customers", the company said.
A similar cutoff was under consideration by neighboring utility Southern California Edison for almost 174,000 of its customers, about 50,000 of them in Los Angeles County, should severe winds hit southern California on Thursday as forecast, SoCal Edison spokeswoman Taelor Bakewell said.
In California's wildfire season, the threat of fierce wind gusts and arid weather increase the chances of trees being toppled and falling into power lines - or those lines being blown into dry vegetation, sparking a fire. PG&E initiated the outages intentionally, fearing that unusually high winds and dry conditions could lead to more drastic wildfires like California has seen the seen the last few years. Coupled with low humidity, that's a prime environment for a rapid fire spread.
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"We are entering into a two-, three- or four-day period of extreme fire danger in California", Governor Gavin Newsom said at an event in San Diego on Wednesday.
A red flag warning will be in effect through Friday evening for Southern California, according to the National Weather Service.
PG&E warned residents to prepare for outages that could last several days.
The three-phase power shutoff will affect around 800,000 customers. Police have ordered evacuations as the fast-moving wildfire spread in the hills of the San Francisco Bay Area community.
The utility declared bankruptcy in January to manage the legal costs after it was found responsible for some major wildfires, including the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, which killed at least 86 people, and destroyed 14,000 residences a year ago. PG&E later an $11 billion settlement to cover claims for the California wildfires after the utility declared bankruptcy due to the lawsuits.