- Associated Press - Thursday, March 22, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The Latest on California utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. saying it is intensifying efforts against utility-sparked wildfires after deadly Northern California wildfire (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

A leading California utility says it will start switching off power at times of extreme fire danger to reduce the risk of sparks.

Thursday’s commitment comes as part of stepped-up wildfire measures from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The utility faces hundreds of millions of dollars in possible liability as California investigators determine whether its electrical equipment sparked October wildfires. The fires killed 44 people in Northern California.

Some officials have pushed PG&E; to do more against wildfires, including installing power shut-off systems and burying power lines.

PG&E; spokesman Matt Nauman says the utility recognizes that there can be times when proactively turning off power lines is warranted. Nauman says the utility will work with emergency officials, local authorities and others to develop guidelines for such cut-offs.

9 a.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will create around-the-clock wildfire prediction and response center in San Francisco and hire firefighters on retainer as part of its plan to prevent wildfires or contain them once they erupt.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Thursday the utility will add hundreds of weather stations to its network to monitor conditions. It plans to replace wooden poles with steel ones so the electrical grid can better endure windstorms.

The utility says it’s also considering putting more power lines underground.

The company is set to announce its wildfire safety program later Thursday.

The utility’s equipment is being investigated as a potential cause of wildfires that broke out in October in Northern California, killing 44 people and causing a state-estimated $9 billion in property damage.


Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com

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