The shift in Pacific Gas & Electric’s approach to maintenance is as clear as the number of chainsaws seen and heard all throughout western Nevada County in early spring and summer. The utility returned to work on reducing the threat of wildfire, following recent lawsuits that held its officials directly responsible for devastating and deadly blazes.
Last September, former PG&E executives reached a $117-million settlement agreement in connection with the 2017 North Bay fires and the 2018 Camp fire, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The Camp fire was sparked in Butte County by faulty electrical equipment operated by PG&E, authorities said. The fire decimated several communities, including the town of Paradise. In total, 85 people died in the fire, making it the deadliest blaze in the state’s history, according to authorities,” the newspaper reported.
Taking its “more proactive” approach, PG&E has put to work small armies of contractors in white trucks to trim and remove trees throughout our region that pose a threat to power lines or equipment to potentially start a fire. Considering the prevalence of those crews over the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve driven by them regularly, if not had them on your property to complete such work (some of which has drawn criticism about the number of trees left behind afterward.)
“As part of this safety work, we inspect approximately 100,000 miles of overhead powerlines and prune or cut down more than 1 million trees annually,” the utility’s website states. “To continue to provide safe and reliable service to our communities, we perform different vegetation work depending on the type of electric equipment and surrounding environment.”
PG&E recently sent out a mailer highlighting its proactive approach, while also offering information on the potential for its Public Safety Power Shutoffs. When first launched, western county endured several such shutoffs, but has since experienced few to none as the utility has improved its ability to target specific areas.
Public Safety Power Shutoffs are most likely during high winds, low humidity with dry vegetation, most likely from September to November, the mailer states. PG&E says its goal is to first notify customers two days prior — certainly helpful notice for anyone who has just restocked the refrigerator and/or freezer — and follow with updates via text, phone or email until power is restored.
With “Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings,” however, advance notice cannot be provided, the utility states, as power shuts off “within one-tenth of a second if a problem is detected in the line.” Such shutoffs are most likely during hot and dry summer conditions from May through November.
PG&E’s mailer also promotes the proactive work it continues to complete:
• Undergrounding 10,000 miles of powerlines in highest fire-risk area
• Keeping trees and branches away from powerlines
• Installing stronger powerlines and poles
• Using the latest technologies and equipment
• Ensuring safety with enhanced protection and temporary outages
• Parting with top innovators on new safety tools through XPRIZE.org
For more information on PG&E’s fire prevention work, visit www.pge.com/progressmap or www.pge.com/wildfiresafety for more information on preparing for wildfire. Visit www.fire.ca.gov/dspace for information on making your home more fire safe.
Brian Hamilton is a Realtor and member of the Betsy Hamilton Real Estate Team. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.