PG&E Commitment: Latest Updates on Wildfire Response and Recovery Effort

Posted on November 5, 2017

Facts About PG&E’s Wildfire and Prevention Safety Efforts

The safety of our customers, employees, contractors and the communities we serve is PG&E’s top priority. As part of this commitment, PG&E works hard to reduce the risk of wildfires.

PG&E plans for wildfire emergencies in order to respond rapidly and effectively to protect the public and restore essential energy services.

PG&E has multiple wildfire prevention and mitigation plans and programs that are used throughout our service area, many of which are being utilized due to the increased fire risk throughout Northern and Central California.

Wildfire Prevention 

PG&E has several plans in place that help reduce the risk of wildfire associated with its electrical operations throughout Central and Northern California.

  • Through its Electric Vegetation Management Program, PG&E dedicates dollars and workforce hours to help reduce electrical outages and wildfire risks.
  • PG&E meteorologists utilize in-house and publicly-available data from weather stations to monitor real-time wildfire threat.
  • PG&E conducts patrols and inspections of its overhead electric facilities that helps identify damaged facilities and other conditions that could pose a safety or fire risk.
  • PG&E performs annual patrols of distribution lines in urban areas, designated by Cal Fire as high-fire threat zones, and all transmission lines, with biannual patrols of overhead distribution facilities in rural areas.

PG&E conducts annual electric safety training for first responders including law enforcement, fire departments, and public works and transportation agencies.

PG&E participates in annual joint exercises with first responders and emergency management partners to enhance and coordinate prevention and preparedness efforts.

PG&E meets annually with local, state and federal agencies and jurisdictions to share wildfire prevention plans and strategize for the coming year.

Vegetation Management

Through its Electric Vegetation Management Program, PG&E dedicates hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of workforce hours to help reduce electrical outages and wildfire risks.

PG&E meets or exceeds all applicable federal and state vegetation clearance requirements and performs regular power line tree safety activities in accordance with industry standards, guidelines and procedures to reduce outages or fires caused by trees or other vegetation. Utilities are not required, nor would it be practical, to remove every tree that could come into contact with its electric lines.

PG&E is focused on maintaining required clearances and removing dead or dying trees. We’ve taken a number of actions and continue to invest in our system to ensure the continued safe and reliable service to our customers.

Since the California tree mortality crisis began in 2014, PG&E added the following enhanced measures to address areas particularly affected by drought and bark beetles.

  • Increased foot and aerial patrols along power lines in high fire-risk areas to twice a year; up to four times a year in some locations.
  • Conducted secondary patrols along 68,000 miles of power lines in 2016; expects to patrol 73,000 miles of line a second time in 2017.
  • Removed approximately 236,000 additional dead or dying trees in 2016; expects to remove approximately 150,000 additional dead trees in 2017. Since 2014, PG&E provided $11.5 million to local Fire Safe Councils for fuel reduction projects in communities.
  • Provided $2 million to local Fire Safe Councils for 28 highly-programmable remote-sensing cameras on critical fire lookout towers. Launched daily aerial fire detection patrols to improve the spotting and speed of fire response.
  • Deployed LiDAR (Light-detecting and Ranging), a remote sensing technology to help identify trees to be worked.

Since 2013, PG&E has spent approximately $1.6 billion in our vegetation management programs to reduce power outages and wildfire risks.

  • Invested $185 million in transmission vegetation management from 2013 to 2017 (2017 is forecast, 2013-2016 is actuals)
  • Invested $946 million in distribution vegetation management from 2013 to 2017 (2017 is forecast, 2013-2016 is actuals)
  • Invested $450 million in tree mortality response from 2014 to 2017 (2017 is forecast, 2014-2016 is actuals)

Meteorology

On a daily basis, PG&E staff meteorologists (including wildfire-weather specialists) monitor the current weather, weather forecasts, the National Weather Service’s Red Flag Warnings, and wildfire threat projections from the United States Forest Service and Cal Fire.

PG&E’s meteorology team obtains via satellite reception ‘state-of-the-art’ high-resolution weather model forecast data including the predominant fire-weather drivers (rain, wind, temperature, relative humidity). This data is used to predict when and where wildfire threat will be high or extreme.

PG&E’s meteorology team notifies PG&E personnel of wildfire threat conditions through wildfire weather daily forecasts and weekly summary forecasts, as well as:

  • Alerting workers to current and future wildfire weather conditions and providing information on critical wildfire weather conditions.
  • Providing spot forecasts for active wildfires which threaten PG&E assets to help in planning for resource needs and deployments.

Wildfire Response

In the event of a fire threatening public safety and/or PG&E facilities, PG&E will support firefighting efforts as appropriate, through resources and activation of PG&E’s wildfire response plans.

PG&E’s Geographic Information System (GIS) team provides critical mapping information which can help PG&E and first responders protect critical infrastructure and deploy and manage crews.

With approval of the wildfire Incident Command, PG&E crews can respond to the fire area and perform pole pre-treatment and fuel reduction activities ahead of a fire, on and near power lines.

  • Pole pre-treatment is conducted with an approved wildland fire chemical applied to PG&E infrastructure and surrounding vegetation, helping prevent the pole or other facility from catching fire.
  • Vegetation management crews may work ahead of a fire to further reduce the fuel in and around power lines so that fire fighters will have a better chance of controlling the spread of the fire.

Field personnel work directly with the fire suppression Incident Command to coordinate efforts to identify potential hazards, and to provide a safe area for the public and personnel working onsite. If power lines need to be de-energized, crews are onsite to do that work.

Field personnel can work directly with the fire Incident Command should it become necessary to protect critical power generation, transmission or distribution assets.

After a fire has gone through an area, crews work to clear hazardous, burned or damaged trees that pose a threat to utility lines and public safety.

Post-Wildfire Incident Recovery

PG&E conducts a thorough review within 20 days of a fire-related incident that triggers Operations Emergency Center (OEC) activation, focusing on identifying what worked well and areas to improve, and implementing changes to enhance response.

PG&E also takes part in joint public agency/PG&E debrief sessions following a fire event to gather information on what worked well and areas to improve in the future.

PG&E in collaboration with Cal Fire provides safety information to people returning back to their homes following a wildfire evacuation.

Email Currents at Currents@pge.com

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