SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) today issued the following statement in response to the release of information by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) regarding the October 2017 Tubbs wildfire:
Without question, the loss of life, homes and businesses during these devastating wildfires is heartbreaking, and we remain focused on helping affected communities recover and rebuild. The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is our most important responsibility, and we are committed to assessing our infrastructure to further enhance safety and help protect all of the customers we serve from the ever-increasing threat of wildfires.
CAL FIRE has completed its investigation of the 2017 Tubbs Fire and concluded that PG&E facilities did not cause the fire.
The devastating and unprecedented wildfires of 2017 and 2018 have had a profound impact on our customers, employees and communities. Regardless of today’s announcement, PG&E still faces extensive litigation, significant potential liabilities and a deteriorating financial situation, which was further impaired by the recent credit agency downgrades to below investment grade. Resolving the legal liabilities and financial challenges stemming from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires will be enormously complex and will require us to address multiple stakeholder interests, including thousands of wildfire victims and others who have already made claims and likely thousands of others we expect to make claims.
Given the continued and growing threat of extreme weather and wildfires, and as an additional precautionary measure, PG&E is enhancing and expanding its Community Wildfire Safety Program to further reduce wildfire risks and help keep its customers and the communities it serves safe. PG&E’s ongoing and expanded safety actions include:
Real-Time Monitoring and Intelligence
• Coordinating prevention and response efforts by monitoring wildfire risk in real-time from its Wildfire Safety Operations Center.
• Expanding its network of weather stations to enhance weather forecasting and modeling. By 2022, PG&E will add approximately 1,300 new weather stations in high fire-risk areas.
• Installing nearly 600 new high-definition cameras in high fire-threat areas, increasing coverage across these areas to more than 90 percent.
New and Enhanced Safety Measures
• Further enhancing vegetation management efforts with an increased focus on vegetation that poses a higher potential for wildfire risk, such as overhanging branches and limbs directly above and around power lines, and tree species at an increased risk of falling into power lines, as well as dead and dying trees. • Conducting accelerated safety inspections of electric infrastructure in high fire-threat areas, in addition to routine inspections and maintenance. This includes ground or climbing inspections, as well as aerial imagery captured by drones and in some cases, helicopter, to further complement and enhance visual inspections.
• Taking action right away to address any immediate risk to public safety found during accelerated inspections.
• Disabling of automatic reclosing of circuit breakers and reclosers in high fire-risk areas during wildfire season.
• Proactively turning off electric power for safety, only as a last resort, when extreme fire danger conditions are forecasted, and helping customers prepare by providing early warning notification when and where possible.
System Hardening and Resiliency
• Installing stronger and more resilient poles and covered power lines across 7,100 miles of highest fire-risk areas over the course of the next 10 years.
• Replacing equipment to further reduce risk to its system and tailoring upgrades based on terrain and weather conditions using more granular analysis of fire-prone regions.
• Piloting new resilience zones to provide electricity to central community resources serving local customers during a Public Safety Power Shutoff event.
Wildfire Risk is Growing
California faces an ever-increasing threat from catastrophic wildfires, extreme weather and higher temperatures. Recent state and federal climate assessments warn the threat is only growing. California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment found the average area burned statewide would increase 77 percent if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The Assessment also said prolonged drought and higher temperatures will triple the frequency of wildfires.
Multiple factors contribute to wildfire risk across PG&E’s service area. These include vast tree mortality following a historic five-year drought. Fire season is now extended due to prolonged periods of high temperatures, extreme dryness, tinder-dry grass and record-high winds increasing the number of wildfires and making them more dangerous. More than half of PG&E’s service area is now considered to be in extreme or high fire-risk areas as designated by the CPUC’s Fire-Threat Map.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and pge.com/news.