Community Wildfire Safety Program
To help meet the climate-driven challenge of increasing wildfires and extreme weather events, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is taking action with a comprehensive Community Wildfire Safety Program. PG&E is working in close coordination with customers, civic and community leaders, and first responders on efforts that will have an immediate impact on reducing wildfire threats and improving safety.
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. This new normal means we must do more in partnership to strengthen the safety and resilience of the state’s energy infrastructure.
PG&E’s multi-faceted Community Wildfire Safety Program focuses on three key areas: bolstering wildfire prevention and emergency response efforts, putting in place new and enhanced safety measures, and doing more over the long term to harden the electric system to help reduce wildfire threats and to keep customers safe.
Wildfire Prevention and Emergency Response Efforts
PG&E is bolstering wildfire prevention and emergency response efforts.
- PG&E has established a Wildfire Safety Operations Center to monitor wildfire risks service area-wide in real time and coordinate prevention and response efforts. Staffed with highly qualified electric operations, meteorology and safety professionals, the Center serve as a central communications hub to partner and coordinate with local government, first responders, media and safety officials on wildfire prevention and emergency response.
- PG&E will expand the company’s weather forecasting and modeling by installing a network of PG&E-owned and operated weather stations across the service area. This will further advance our weather forecasting capabilities to monitor and forecast weather conditions and better predict where a wildfire could occur so we can respond quickly and appropriately to keep our customers safe. PG&E’s meteorologists will partner with fire safety experts to review data and determine any needed action as part of our wildfire prevention and response efforts. We are also working to improve fire risk models that can help better determine the likelihood of a fire ignition in a high fire-risk area.
New and Enhanced Safety Measures
PG&E is working with our communities to put in place new and enhanced safety measures to help reduce wildfire risks and keep customers safe.
- PG&E is doing enhanced vegetation management to meet new vegetation and fire safety standards that require keeping trees and limbs farther away from power lines. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted new regulations that require 4 feet minimum clearance year-round in high fire-threat areas. In some communities, that is an increase from the previous minimum requirement of 1.5 feet. Meeting the CPUC minimum clearance requirement at all times will require creating clearances of 12 feet or more at many locations to ensure compliance until the next inspection. Beyond the new clearance requirements, PG&E will also work with communities and customers in high fire-threat areas to reduce vegetation and brush that can act as fuel in case of a wildfire from 15 feet or more on either side of power lines. This work will increase defensible space in our communities and improve access for firefighters responding to wildfires.
- PG&E is refining and executing protocols for proactively turning off electric power lines in areas where extreme fire conditions are occurring. We know how much people rely on reliable electric service, and would only consider temporarily turning lines off in the interest of public safety, as a last resort. If we need to turn off power, when and where possible, we will attempt to contact customers in advance to ensure they have time to prepare. We will also provide updates until power is restored.
- PG&E is expanding our practice of disabling the automatic reclosing of circuit breakers and line reclosers in high fire-risk areas during fire season and during periods of high fire-threat. Reclosers help maintain the safety and reliability of our system by avoiding sustained power outages – without a reclosing device, even a temporary fault can often lead to longer outages. However, disabling of reclosing technology may reduce the probability of fire ignition associated with a power line. To help reduce wildfire risks, PG&E will be disabling automatic reclosing on certain electric lines at times of elevated wildfire conditions in high fire-threat areas.
Harden our Electric System and Integrate New Technologies
For the longer term, PG&E is doing more to harden our electric system and integrate new technologies to make a stronger and more resilient grid for the communities it serves.
- In the last five years, PG&E has invested $15 billion to enhance and harden its electric transmission and distribution assets. Over the longer term, PG&E will be working to enhance the overall construction of our electric system to reflect the changing environmental conditions of its service area and to improve system resiliency. These improvements include:
- Investing in stronger, coated power lines,
- Replacing some wood poles with non-wood poles in certain areas in the coming years, and
- Spacing lines farther apart to prevent line-on-line contact during wind storms.
- PG&E will expand our practice of pre-treating electric poles with long-term fire retardant in areas where the fire danger is high. Long-term retardants can be applied several days prior to fire passage and remain effective for days and even weeks after application.
- PG&E is partnering with communities to develop and integrate microgrids to enhance grid resiliency and improve electric service reliability in the event of a major natural disaster. We are working to enhance grid flexibility and resilience with microgrid technology through innovative demonstrations, including temporary generation and deploying new storage technologies.
Why PG&E is Taking Action with the Community Wildfire Safety Program
Extreme weather is increasing the number of large wildfires and the length of the wildfire season in California. In 2017 alone, California confronted more wildfires than ever before. Five of the 20 most destructive wildfires in the state’s history burned between October and December.
PG&E recognizes that we can’t do this alone. We need to work together with civic and community leaders, first responders, state leaders, and other energy companies on solutions and new ways of thinking to stay ahead of California’s changing climate and ensure the ongoing delivery of safe and reliable energy.
What the Community Wildfire Safety Program Means for PG&E Customers
We want to work together to share information, provide resources and help our customers and communities prepare for and stay safe during extreme weather events. We are also developing a roadmap for longer-term investments that will help improve the safety and resiliency of our state’s energy infrastructure.
The Community Wildfire Safety Program will help PG&E do even more to partner with our customers to help them prepare for wildfire season, let them know what we are doing to keep them and their families safe, and answer any questions they may have.