Smokey the Bear sign next to a firefighter.

Enlarge / A firefighter passes by a Smokey the Bear fire danger sign during a brush fire in Burbank, Calif., on May 25, 2018. (credit: Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This weekend, one of California’s largest utilities—Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)—elected to shut off power to customers in two counties as part of its newly-expanded “Public Safety Power Shutoff” plan.

The plan was approved by California regulators in May as a way to minimize the risk of wildfire in Northern California. As climate change has made summers hotter and winter rain more unpredictable, PG&E’s power lines sparked dangerous and destructive fires 2017 and 2018. In recent years, California fires caused by power lines have burned millions of acres of land, razing homes and towns, and killing residents who couldn’t evacuate quickly enough.

In order to combat these fires, PG&E is proactively shutting down both distribution and transmissions lines when conditions are dangerous enough. This weekend, hot, windy weather with low humidity resulted in power outages for 20,500 residents of Butte and Yuba counties, just west of the Tahoe and Plumas National Forests.

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