PG&E crews set up camp in Nevada County to eliminate wildfire threats | TheUnion.com

PG&E crews set up camp in Nevada County to eliminate wildfire threats

Puzzled about the sudden appearance of a number of tents, trucks and lights across from the Nevada County Fairgrounds?

It's a "micro-site" set up by Pacific Gas and Electric Company for a vegetation management project, spokeswoman Brandi Merlo said. Merlo stressed it is not a campsite and that workers are being housed in local hotels, with the tents being used to conduct meetings.

More than 5,500 wildfires have already burned over 1.4 million acres in California as of late August, Merlo said.

"As a result, we are augmenting our Community Wildfire Safety Program to accelerate our vegetation and safety work and reduce the risk of vegetation coming into contact with power lines," she said. "This wildfire safety work involves creating even greater clearances between trees and power lines, including overhanging branches and limbs, in areas the California Public Utilities Commission has designated as at extreme risk of wildfire."

PG&E was already working to meet new state vegetation and fire safety standards, Merlo said. Those require a minimum clearance of four feet around power lines in high fire-threat areas with clearances of 12 feet or more at time of trim to ensure compliance year-round.

The accelerated wildfire vegetation management work being performed in Nevada County specifically addresses overhanging branches or limbs that have the potential to come into contact with power lines, by ensuring conductor-to-sky 12-foot clearance.

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"This is above and beyond the current vegetation management requirements," Merlo noted.

This work will take place between now and the end of the 2018 wildfire season, Merlo said, adding that she did not have a specific timeline as yet.

The work is taking place in Tier 3 areas as designated by the High Fire-Threat District map throughout the service area, she said. In Nevada County, those areas are Cascade Shores, the Highway 20 corridor, Lake Vera and Greenhorn areas.

"We currently have inspectors in the Cascade Shores area and will be moving to the other areas next week," Merlo said. "The inspectors have been identifying the work to be done and contacting property owners or tenants. Crews will be coming back in the near future to complete the work."

According to Merlo, the crews will identify and remove overhanging branches on all properties that fall into Tier 3, both on public and private properties. She clarified this applies to branches overhanging the distribution lines, not the service lines that run from those lines to private property. Service lines are the responsibility of the property owners, Merlo said.

"We are also continuing to partner with customers in extreme fire-threat areas to create fire defense zones by reducing the vegetation below and near power lines that could act as fuel in a wildfire, as an added layer of protection and to enhance defensible space," Merlo said.

Those fire defense zones would extend 15 feet from the pole lines. According to Merlo, the crews will perform that work when the property owners agree to it. PG&E customers can call 877-295-4949 for more information or email wildfiresafety@pge.com.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.