SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.— To help meet the climate-driven challenge of increasing wildfires and extreme weather events, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) today announced a comprehensive Community Wildfire Safety Program.
PG&E is working in close coordination with first responders, civic and community leaders and customers on this program. These efforts will have an immediate impact on reducing wildfire threats and improving safety, in advance of the start of wildfire season in Northern and Central California.
Years of drought, extreme heat and 129 million dead trees have created a “new normal” for California. In the interest of public safety, and following the wildfires in 2017, PG&E is implementing additional precautionary measures intended to reduce the risk of wildfires. PG&E is continuously evolving its operating practices in response to new standards and regulations – but this new normal means even more must be done in partnership to strengthen the safety and resilience of the state’s energy infrastructure.
The multi-faceted program focuses on three key areas:
• bolstering wildfire prevention and emergency response efforts;
• working with customers and first responders to put in place new and enhanced safety measures; and
• doing more over the long term to harden the electric system to help reduce wildfire threats and to keep customers safe.
“Our system and our mindset need to be laser-focused on working together to help prevent devastating wildfires like the ones in the North Bay in October and in Southern California in December from happening again, and in responding quickly and effectively if they do,” said Pat Hogan, PG&E’s senior vice president of Electric Operations. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, which is what the Community Wildfire Safety Program is all about.”
Among the actions that PG&E is taking:
Wildfire Prevention and Emergency Response
• Establishing a Wildfire Safety Operations Center to monitor wildfire risks in real-time and coordinate prevention and response efforts with first responders.
• Securing additional PG&E firefighting resources to respond to wildfires, protect poles, power lines and other electrical equipment during fires, and assist utility crews working in high fire danger areas.
• Expanding the company’s weather forecasting and modeling by installing a network of PG&E-owned and operated weather stations across the service area.
New and Enhanced Safety Measures
• Augmenting PG&E’s already rigorous vegetation management practices based on the High Fire-Threat District map adopted in January 2018 by the California Public Utilities Commission. New standards require keeping trees and limbs farther away from power lines. We also will be working to create fire safety zones around power lines in the highest fire-threat areas.
• Refining and executing protocols for proactively turning off electric power lines in areas where extreme fire conditions are occurring, and implementing the appropriate communications and resources to help inform, prepare and support our customers and communities.
• Expanding our practice of disabling line reclosers and circuit breakers in high fire-risk areas during fire season.
Electric System Hardening Over the Long Term
• Investing in stronger, coated power lines, spacing lines farther apart to prevent line-on-line contact during wind storms, and replacing wood poles with non-wood poles in the coming years.
• Expanding our practice of pre-treating electric poles with long-term fire retardant in areas where the fire danger is high.
• Partnering with communities to develop and integrate microgrids to help support community facility resilience in the event of major natural disasters.
Hogan, who has participated in recent legislative and regulatory hearings on wildfires, noted that PG&E won’t be able to do this alone. It will require a comprehensive and collaborative partnership that includes civic and community leaders, first responders and other public safety authorities, state leaders, and energy companies.
“All of us need to work together to make decisions and put in place solutions based on the dynamics of climate change and severe weather events,” Hogan said. “Our communities are depending on us to take strong and preventive actions that will protect our state’s energy future and help reduce the risk of wildfire in California.”