In advance of fire season, PG&E offers wildfires safety program | TheUnion.com

In advance of fire season, PG&E offers wildfires safety program

Submitted to The Union

To help meet the climate-driven challenge of increasing wildfires and extreme weather events, Pacific Gas and Electric Company has announced a Community Wildfire Safety Program.

PG&E is working with first responders, civic and community leaders and customers on this program. 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. 

The multi-faceted program focuses on three key areas: bolstering wildfire prevention and emergency response efforts; working with customers and first responders on new and enhanced safety measures; and hardening the electric system to help reduce wildfire threats.

 "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.

Among the actions that PG&E is taking:

Establishing a Wildfire Safety Operations Center to monitor wildfire risks in real-time and coordinate prevention and response efforts with first responders.

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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.

Augmenting PG&E's vegetation management practices based on the High Fire-Threat District map adopted in January 2018 by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Refining protocols for turning off electric power lines in areas where extreme fire conditions are occurring, and implementing communications and resources to help inform, prepare and support customers and communities.

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 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.

"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."

Source: Pacific Gas & Electric Company

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