PG&E in emergency mode as deadly wildfires ravage California

Pacific Gas & Electric crews mobilized into action as wildfires raced through northern California’s wine country, killing 11 people, destroying more than a thousand structures and cutting power to about 100,000 customers.

PG&E reported that it activated emergency operations centers with base camps in Napa and Sonoma counties. About 20 North Bay fires started overnight Sunday and caused some 100,000 outages by Monday.

In some cases, PG&E stated, electric and gas service was proactively de-energized to aid firefighters’ efforts. Gusts as high as 75 miles per hour pushed the blazes faster than crews could defend them and trapped some residents.

“We have mobilized crews so we can be ready to safely bring power and gas service back to our communities,” PG&E Chief Operating Officer and President Nick Stavropoulos said in a statement. “Until then, we are working closely with Cal Fire and first responders, as well as the Red Cross and the communities we serve, to make sure safety is front and center during what could be an extended restoration effort.”

Wire reports indicated that the fast moving fires forced some 20,000 people to flee their homes. PG&E crews will assess damage once first responders have given them the OK.

The utility reminded customers to treat all downed lines as if they are energized and dangerous. Those who spot a downed line are encouraged to call 911, then notify PG&E’s emergency and customer service line at 1-800-743-5002.

PG&E to continue its response until all customers were safely restored.

About 12 percent of grapes grown in California are in Sonoma, Napa and surrounding counties, said Anita Oberholster, a cooperative extension specialist in enology at the University of California, Davis. But they are the highest value grapes, leading to the highest value wines, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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