Posted on August 8, 2012

Plumas County: PG&E Crews Clear Brush in Effort to Quell Chips Fire

On Thursday, PG&E crews worked to modify the Gasner Substation in Quincy in advance of the arrival and connection of three utility-scale mobile generators. (Photo by Lee Woodson/PG&E.)

Aug. 9 Update: PG&E has 36 workers on the ground, clearing brush and vegetation around transmission poles. It is part of the utility’s efforts to protect transmission lines serving power to the communities of the Feather River Canyon and the Lake Almanor Basin.

The Lake Almanor Basin is not at risk of power outages from the Chips Fire.  The Hat Creek-Westwood 60,000-volt line also can provide power to the Lake Almanor Basin communities and is not threatened by any fires.  Should the Caribou-Westwood line be impacted by the Chips Fire, all power needs to the Lake Almanor Basin can be served by the electric transmission feeds from the Hat Creek-Westwood line.  The Quincy and Feather River Canyon communities are served by two transmission line feeds and both have the potential to be impacted by the Chips Fire.

On Wednesday, PG&E crews began clearing a 10-foot radius area of vegetation around transmission poles that run from the Caribou Powerhouse toward Lake Almanor and another line running toward Quincy.  Crews are clearing the bases of poles for five miles on each transmission line starting from the Caribou Powerhouse.  Should the fire pose a threat beyond the five-mile clearance zone, crews will continue clearing trees and brush along the transmission poles.  Clearing the vegetation will help protect the poles from fires, and PG&E is prepared to use fire retardant on the poles wherever possible to provide additional protection should the fire approach.

(The story below was posted on Aug. 8.)

Plumas County: PG&E Sending in Mobile Generators as Wildfire Threatens Power Lines

QUINCY – PG&E acted quickly this week to minimize possible power outages to customers as the result of a fast-growing wildfire in Plumas County that posed a significant threat to the utility’s electric facilities.

Flames and smoke from the Chips Fire are very visible from Highway 70. (Photo by U.S. Forest Service)

The Chips Fire, which began July 29 about 20 miles northwest of Quincy, had grown to nearly 17,000 acres by Wednesday morning (Aug. 8). A number of campgrounds were closed and some communities were advised to prepare for evacuation.

As a precaution, PG&E was arranging to truck in mobile generators to three substations so power to 3,400 homes and businesses can continue should the fire damage two 60,000-volt transmission lines serving those substations.

The generators were expected to be in place by Friday.

PG&E teams, including one of its Mobile Command Vehicles, were staged in Quincy to assess at-risk facilities and pre-treat wooden poles for fire protection where accessible. In some cases, line workers will de-energize power lines for firefighters’ safety.

Meanwhile, the utility warned residents that fire damage could cause outages. Crews were prepared to work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power, though remote and hazardous terrain could slow that work.

Near the PG&E electric substation, crews have dug trenches where ground cables to ground the coming mobile generators will be installed.

PG&E also advised residents to stay away from any downed power lines and assume they’re energized. In the event of a downed line, residents should call 911 and then notify PG&E at (800) 743-5002.

Fire officials have said full containment of the fire isn’t expected until Aug. 21.

Deb Harrigan, PG&E’s incident commander for the fire, said PG&E’s effort shows a new approach the company is taking toward improving customer service, reliability and response.

PG&E has provided a much more progressive response to emergencies. Already this year, the utility has provided support to fire officials in Placer, Shasta and Colusa counties. It also put into action the many hours of first responder training PG&E is providing firefighters throughout its territory.

“I think in some ways this is the new PG&E,” Harrigan said. “We identified a risk and developed a creative solution to meet our customers’ needs.”

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