California Power Company Creates Plan To Help Prevent Wildfires

Southern California Edison's fire mitigation plan includes removing trees, reviewing miles of lines and being ready to shut off power during fire threats.

California’s second-largest power company has unveiled a $582 million plan to help prevent wildfires after reports that the utility’s infrastructure may have sparked a massive fire that killed four people last year.

Southern California Edison gave its 2019 wildfire mitigation plan to the California Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday. All power utilities are required to submit a mitigation plan under a new law enacted last year in the wake of deadly California wildfires.

“The 2017 and subsequent fires in 2018 … emphasize that California’s wildfire risk has increased to the point where the safety of our communities requires additional measures designed to address the higher level of wildfire risk,” the SCE plan stated.

The plan includes inspecting at least 125,000 trees in high-risk areas and potentially removing them. The utility will also review tens of thousands of miles of power lines in areas at risk of catching fire, SCE official Phil Herrington told the Los Angeles Times. Herrington said the utility expects to finish inspections by this summer.

SCE also plans to implement more pre-emptive power shutoffs during dry and windy conditions, which can reduce the risk of electrical equipment sparking fires. The utility is facing lawsuits from the victims of the Woolsey fire who said SCE should have shut off its power lines the day the blaze began. The fire burned nearly 100,000 acres across Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

SCE isn’t in as much hot water as the state’s largest power utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, which also submitted a mitigation plan Wednesday. That plan includes removing 375,000 trees and installing hundreds of new weather stations.

The San Francisco-based utility filed for bankruptcy protection last week after filing billions of dollars in claims related to the Camp fire, the costliest natural disaster worldwide last year. State officials have blamed PG&E’s equipment for helping ignite several fires that killed almost two dozen people in 2017. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection still hasn’t concluded whether the utility is responsible for the Camp fire that killed 86 people and wiped out most of the town of Paradise.