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Dry, windy weather sparks new California wildfire concerns

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Northern California faced red flag warnings of extreme fire danger Thursday as dry, gusty weather returned to an area already scarred by massive and deadly blazes.

The National Weather Service issued warnings Wednesday night into Friday, predicting low humidity and winds up to 40 mph at times in the mountains, valleys and coastal areas of the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento region and the Sierras.

Pacific Gas & Electric had warned that it planned to cut electricity overnight to about 37,000 customers in parts of 15 northern counties to prevent wind-blown wires from sparking and igniting fires. The outages were expected to last through Friday morning.

More than 10,000 of those customers were in Butte County north of Sacramento. The rural county has been hit by several major fires in recent years. PG&E’s equipment was blamed for sparking one in 2018 that killed 85 people and destroyed much of the town of Paradise.

Nearly 18,500 customers were expected to be affected in Shasta County, farther north.

PG&E cut power to 41,000 customers during similar conditions last week. No major new fires were reported. The utility said post-shutoff inspections found at least 30 instances of weather-related damage or hazards to electrical equipment.

The new round of shutoffs, though relatively restricted, exasperated some people.

“I’m not the whining type but there’s nothing else to do but complain,” said Bill Fletcher as he filled up a gas can to fuel a generator for his east Napa County home.

He was preparing for a public safety power shutoff, or PSPS.

“PSBS, that’s what I think of it,” Fletcher told KGO-TV.

Meanwhile, Southern California continued a cooling trend with low clouds and fog pressing in from the coast and the region might even see light rain or drizzle from Friday into the weekend.

More 8,600 wildfires have scorched thousands of square miles of land this year and killed 31 people. Many of the worst blazes have occurred since mid-August but the majority have been fully or significantly contained.

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