By Katie Allen
MARIPOSA — When the Detwiler Fire broke out in Mariposa County on July 16, PG&E immediately started coordinating with Cal Fire to determine the projected path of the fire and its potential impact on PG&E’s energy infrastructure.
This information allowed PG&E to proactively spray fire retardant on the bottom portion of power poles that were in the fire zone.
PG&E pre-treated 300 poles and all but one 3-pole structure survived the blaze. In the Pandola Gardens area, 27 red-tinged poles (colored by the retardant) and untouched vegetation stand out in the charred landscape.
“Pre-treating poles ensures faster power restoration times and minimizes damage. We don’t have to replace hundreds of poles because of this work and customers have power,” said Brett Dahlem, PG&E’s maintenance and construction electric coordinator.
Pre-treating power poles prevents them from catching on fire and burning. The retardant is mixed with water and sprayed by a hose onto the power poles. It is the same retardant used in firefighting plane drops and lasts until the rainy season.
This proactive work is saving PG&E and its customers tens of thousands of dollars. Pre-treating a pole with retardant costs about $20; replacing a damaged or destroyed pole runs about $20,000.
PG&E began pretreatment ahead of wildfires in 2015. At that time, PG&E pre-treated 1,300 poles requiring only three to be replaced after a wildfire in 2015. Last year, 1,269 were pretreated requiring zero to be replaced.
As of Tuesday (July 25), the Detwiler fire near Yosemite National Park was about 65 percent contained and had burned approximately 78,900 acres, according to Cal Fire.
PG&E has 386 employees and 148 contractors dedicated to fire response and safety. Approximately 99 percent of the 10,000 PG&E customers originally impacted by the fire-related outage last week have now been restored.
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