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In The News

PG&E Reduces Fuel for Wildfire, Keeps Communities Safe

 California’s extreme drought conditions have sparked a significant increase in wildfires this year. CAL FIRE reports between January 1 and June 7, it has responded to more than 2,100 wildfires that charred more than 17,000 acres. The average for that same time period this time of year is about 1,250 fires and 10,000 acres.

PG&E is keenly aware of the increased wildfire danger to its facilities, customers and communities. The utility constantly monitors plant vegetation and its impact on its gas and electricity transmission and distribution systems, and aggressively mitigates potential fire hazards year round.

PG&E and its contractors are working to create defensible space around power lines as the potential for wildfires is greater due to California's drought. (Photos by James Green.)

This year, due to the heightened concern, PG&E is working even harder to reduce wildfire risk through its Vegetation Management programs.

In addition to using strategies such as analyzing tree failure patterns across different species of trees, it’s also using advanced detection techniques to help predict tree failures of even seemingly green and healthy trees.

“We want to get the one tree that has the potential for failing and causing a catastrophic fire,” said Eric Woodyard, a senior program manager with PG&E’s vegetation management department.

PG&E and its tree contractors are working on more than 14,000 trees in its vast service area that covers 70,000 square miles, this year.

CAL FIRE says with the current conditions, it’s critically important that everyone creates defensible space.

“The defensible space PG&E is allowing along their power lines will reduce ignitions, but also in the event of a wildfire it will help us to suppress that fire more quickly and to keep it from spreading from property to property,” said CAL FIRE’s Shannon Garrett.

PG&E's Eric Woodyard talks to Paradise resident Tom Kelly about how the utility is working to prevent wildfires.

PG&E is using some non-traditional methods to reduce fuel loads around its power lines, including fire risk modeling, which uses slope, weather and other variables to pinpoint high fire risk areas. PG&E can target its tree work where fires are most likely to start and spread.

Local fire safe councils are supportive of this work.

“They come out and do tree work in the community and that has value,” said Brenda Rightmyer of the Yankee Hill Fire Safe Council.

Homeowners in rural communities like Tom Kelly, who lives in Paradise, appreciate the work too.

“The work that PG&E is doing, I think is a tremendous part of what’s being done up here.”

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