Fire-Hardening the Power Grid One Community at a Time: Protecting the Historic Town of Julian with Fire Safety Upgrades

The historic town of Julian in East County—known for its apple pie and old-time charm—is also a place where we are investing in infrastructure upgrades to improve fire safety and ensure this jewel is protected.

Julian is the latest in a series of communities that are getting “fire-hardened” as part of SDG&E’s commitment to keep the communities that we serve safe.

But what does it mean when we fire-harden a power grid?

Here are a few examples of improvements that you may have seen our crews working on in your neighborhood to help improve safety and reliability:

  • Upgrading wooden poles to steel poles: Over the years we have upgraded more than 13,000 poles in some of the highest fire risk areas with fire-resistant steel poles and thicker, stronger wire —and we’re not done. Work is still on-going to fire harden some of the region’s most fire-prone areas, like in the community of Julian.
  • Investing in new technologies: This year, engineers are testing brand new technologies that are making our communities safer, including a Falling Conductor Protection effort that will de-energize a power line before it hits the ground, avoiding a possible ignition.
  • Disabled “reclosing” devices: We have deployed advanced reclosing devices in the high fire risk areas which come equipped with a special safety mechanism. The mechanism prevents the reclosers from automatically re-energizing a power line after a fault is detected, like debris flying through the air. During extreme fire conditions, re-energizing a power line that was disrupted by a tree branch might ignite a catastrophic wildfire. To avoid a scenario like this, we disable all reclosing devices in the fire threat areas until conditions improve (typically winter or spring).

What improvements will be made in Julian?

Extensive fire-hardening work will take place in Julian over the next few months. Our crews will replace nearly 180 wooden poles with new fire-resistant steel poles and restring thicker, stronger wire, enhancing the safety of the distribution system. To complete this work, some poles may need to be set using a helicopter in areas not accessible by vehicle.

During construction, it may take crews several weeks to install the new poles and overhead wires, as well as to remove the existing infrastructure. Tree pruning or brush clearing may be required on some jobs before we start. We will work as safely and efficiently as possible and strive to minimize construction traffic, dust and noise.

Our activities may require us to temporarily shut off power to ensure our crews can work safely on the electric facilities. If the power needs to be shut off temporarily for safety reasons, we’ll contact you in advance so you can prepare for the planned outage.

SDG&E takes its responsibility to operate the system safely very seriously. Click here to learn more about our wildfire preparedness and fire-hardening efforts.