California utility company considers shutting off power due to Thanksgiving wildfire fears

James Crump
<p>A Chinook CH-47 helitanker makes a water drop in the Santa Monica Mountains west of Los Angeles</p> ((Associated Press))

A Chinook CH-47 helitanker makes a water drop in the Santa Monica Mountains west of Los Angeles

((Associated Press))

A California utility company has warned that it may intentionally cut off power to thousands of customers over the Thanksgiving period, due to fears of dry and windy conditions conducive to wildfires.

Southern California Edison (SCE) said in a statement on Wednesday that it is considering shutting off power for more than 76,000 customers around the Los Angeles area over the next few days.

The company’s statement came after The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Centre placed the region in the “critical” risk zone for fire weather. That is the second-highest threat level, according to the Washington Post.

The service put Los Angeles and its surrounding areas under a fire weather watch from the afternoon of Thanksgiving on Thursday until Friday afternoon.

“High Fire danger is likely Thanksgiving Day and Friday, you know what to do - avoid actions that could spark a #brushfire!! Any fire start is likely to spread quickly,” the service's Los Angeles office said in a tweet on Tuesday evening.

Strong Santa Ana winds with gusts up to 60mph are forecast over the next couple of days, while low humidity is likely in the dry mountains and valleys in the region, according to CNN.

That combination could lead to the utility company’s power equipment toppling and then sparking wildfires during the strongest winds.

SCE is aiming to de-electrify the power equipment before the worst of the weather hits the region over the Thanksgiving period.

The utility company, which provides power to five million people, generally warns affected customers that a power shut-off may occur around three days before action is taken.

Investigators are currently looking into the possibility that one of the largest ever wildfires recorded in Los Angeles was sparked by tree branches coming into contact with SCE equipment.

SCE said last month that investigators took a line of conductor belonging to the utility company and three tree branches from the area where the Bobcat Fire started, according to ABC7.

The Bobcat Fire began in California on 6 September and burned until 2 November, destroying 115,796 acres in forest and mountain areas within Los Angeles County.

Wildfires have decimated large areas of the US West Coast this year, as more than 100 blazes burned at least 8.2 million acres in California, Oregon and Washington.

More than 30 people have so far died in California during wildfires in 2020, as the state has recorded five of the six largest wildfires in its history.

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