Judge may order PG&E to hire more tree trimmers to prevent wildfires

PG&E is making progress on clearing overhead electric lines.

A federal judge announced in San Francisco Thursday that he is considering ordering PG&E Co. to hire and train enough workers to trim or remove all trees that could fall on power lines and spark wildfires.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup scheduled a Feb. 19 hearing on whether he should issue such an order.

The announcement came a day after the utility submitted a report to the judge stating that it was making progress but was not fully in compliance with state laws on vegetation management and clearance or with PG&E's own wildfire mitigation plan.

Alsup is overseeing PG&E's probation in a criminal pipeline safety case that stemmed from the fatal explosion of a natural gas pipeline in San Bruno in 2010.

If the judge decides next month to order PG&E to hire more tree clearance workers, the order would be an additional probation condition.