California faces wildfires, power outages possible amid extreme heat

California faces wildfires, power outages possible amid extreme heat

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California is facing its highest chance of a power outage this year as a brutal heatwave continues to sweep the state with triple-digit temperatures.

As people turn on their air conditioners, the state is forecast to see record levels of energy consumption, said Elliot Mainzer, president of the California Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s power grid. The state currently has additional power capacity, “but there could be blackouts, constant, intermittent blackouts,” Mainzer said, calling the additional conservation “absolutely necessary.”

CAISO issued an emergency alert Tuesday afternoon, warning that rolling blackouts are possible, but demand eased after an emergency alert was sent to cell phones across the state. California’s grid peaked at over 52,000 megawatts of demand, setting a new state record, Mercury-News reported.

The danger of forest fires was extreme, as the scorching heat and low humidity turned the bushes into tinder. Four deaths were reported over Labor Day weekend as about 4,400 firefighters battled 14 major blazes across the state, with 45 new blazes on Sunday alone, said Anale Burlew, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

In Southern California, two people were killed and one injured in a fire in Fairview that started on Monday near the city of Hemet, the Riverside County Fire Department said. About 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Los Angeles, the fire quickly spread to at least 2,400 acres (971 ha), requiring evacuation, and only 5% were contained. Several houses burned down.

The dead were not immediately identified. Authorities said both were found in the same area, but it is not known if they belonged to the same house. They apparently tried to run when they were overpowered.

California’s power grid runs on a mixture of mostly solar and natural gas during the day, as well as imported electricity from other states. But solar power starts to drop in the afternoon and late afternoon, which is the hottest time of the day in some parts of the state. And some of the aging gas-fired power plants that California relies on for backup power aren’t as reliable in hot weather.

At the request of CAISO, on Monday, four temporary emergency power generators deployed by the Department of Water Resources in Roseville and Yuba City were activated for the first time since they were installed last year, providing up to 120 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 120,000 homes.

CAISO also issued a Flex Alert call for voluntary conservation from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm Tuesday, issuing seven alerts in as many days. Consumers were urged to keep air conditioners at or above 78 degrees (25.5 degrees C) during this period and avoid using large appliances such as ovens and dishwashers.

Efforts have helped keep the light on, “but now we’ve entered the most intense phase of this heatwave,” which could last a week and require two to three times more protection from people and businesses, Mainzer said. .

CAISO also issued a Level 2 Energy Emergency Alert from 18:30 to 20:00 Monday. According to the CAISO website, the second of three stages of alerting means taking emergency energy-saving measures, “such as plugging in backup generators, buying more power from other states, and using so-called demand response programs.” Stage 3 – rolling blackouts.

Several hundred thousand Californians lost power due to rolling blackouts in August 2020 due to hot weather, but the state avoided a similar scenario last summer. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Friday that could allow the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant to remain open after a planned shutdown in 2025 to provide more power.

The National Weather Service forecast highs of 100 to 115 degrees (37.7 C and 46.1 C) in the interior of California, and 80 to 90 (above 26.6 C and below 37.2 C) closer to the coast. Night time will not bring much relief, many places have lows in the 80s or even 90s (above 26.6 C and below 37.2 C).

Ironically, the erratic weather also resulted in thunderstorms over Southern California and the Sierra Nevada, with a few isolated areas of rain but no massive rainfall. Storms can also cause lightning, which can start wildfires, according to forecasters.

Just south of the Oregon border on Tuesday morning, a mill fire was 55% contained after two people died, others were injured and at least 88 homes and other buildings were destroyed, CalFire said. The bodies of two women, aged 66 and 73, were found in the town of Weed on Friday, the Siskew County Sheriff’s Office said Monday. Details are not immediately disclosed.

A few miles away, the mountain fire had expanded to nearly 18 square miles (29 square kilometers) square miles with only 20% contained, and winds threatened to restart its spread eastward over steep terrain, fire officials said.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

About the photo: A car burns in an area devastated by the Fairview fire on Monday, September 5, 2022, near Hemet, California. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)

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