Elevating the Conversation on Wildfire Safety

One of the most pressing issues facing our region is the year-round threat of wildfires. Last year, devastating fires in both Northern and Southern California claimed dozens of lives, damaged billions of dollars in property, and displaced thousands of families.

Given the current climate, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently held a full-day session on fire safety. The Fire Safety and Utility Infrastructure En Banc brought together fire officials, utility industry experts and other interested stakeholders to discuss how California plans, prepares for and responds to wildfire threats.

Sharing Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Participants in the CPUC fire safety en banc heard from diverse voices regarding best tactics and strategies to improve grid resiliency and prevent power lines from becoming an ignition source.

Dave Geier, our senior vice president of electric operations, shared our best practices and operating procedures to minimize wildfire risk, including:

  • Operating America’s largest utility-owned weather network—170 weather stations in fire-prone areas that help our crews pre-stage in communities that are expected to see the highest winds.
  • Converting more than 13,000 wood power poles in fire-prone areas with fire-resistant steel poles. Thousands more poles are expected to be upgraded.  
  • Launching 15 state-of-the-art high-definition cameras to provide our region  with an unprecedented level of real-time situational awareness. These cameras join another 100 already in the field.
  • Deploying advanced “reclosers” on power lines, which have a special safety mechanism that prevents a power line from automatically re-energizing after it senses it has been hit by an object, like a tree branch. 
  • Undergrounding 60 percent of our distribution system. Undergrounding power lines in fire prone areas helps to reduce the risk of power lines becoming an ignition source.

How Can You Get Prepared for the New Normal?

According to CAL FIRE officials, weather and fire conditions have become more severe over the years. Last October, when fierce fires ripped through Northern California, fire officials said that the, “initial rate of spread was the length of a football field per minute,” making it uncontrollable for days.

This new normal requires us all to prepare for wildfires. Do you have a personal emergency plan? Is your family familiar with your emergency plan? If not, find out what you and your family can do to prepare for a wildfire or any emergency by visiting sdge.com/emergency