OAKLAND, Calif. - Pacific Gas and Electric's woes are so interconnected with trees and powerlines, as we recently reported, it will bury 10,000 miles of lines in fire prone areas in the coming years.
On Tuesday, the utility took a big extra step to placate landowners whose lands were scorched and left with hundreds of thousands of dead trees lying around.
It's a job PG&E is not legally obligated to do, but customer relations won out. PG&E and it's contractor, Atlas Tree, are spending some days on the Herb Lamb Winery, above Calistoga, and many other properties, sawing enormous dead trees into easier-to-haul chunks and hauling them away.
After last fall's many wildfires in central and northern California, PG&E came in and cut down 200,000 burned, dead or dying trees to protect lines, properties and people from falling on them.
Many of those trees were in the fire prints of the LNU and Glass fires in the North Bay, are on 6,000 properties, especially in Napa and Sonoma counties.
"We worked with the land owners to chip and remove the smallest pieces, 4 inches in diameter or smaller, But. it's usually our policy to leave the larger pieces because it's considered their assets, It's the homeowner's property," said PG&E Spokeswoman Deanna Contreras.
But many of the landowners, now saddled with a lot of scattered dead tress on their land, said the debris was creating hardships.
"Because of this, PG&E has decided to come back to these locations, take inventory of this wood, ask the homeowners if they want us to remove it and then we'll haul it away for them," said Ms. Contreras.
Some of the wood is so badly burned, it's likely to go directly into the chipper where it can be turned into much, which is very useful, or fuel for biomass plants that create energy. But some of this wood is really good and it's so good, it could actually be milled and turned into lumber which could be used for for homes and parks and other practical things.
Of the 6,000 affected properties in the LNU and Glass fire area, less than 20%, so far, have taken PG&E up on this offer which provides property owners with added wildfire protection.
"With this work that has been performed there is also a fuel break, not only from a utility perspective but a fuel break from what remaining on peoples' properties," said Luke Peters, Manager of Atlas Tree’s Utility Division.
Truth is: everyone is rethinking forest management to keep most fires from starting in the first place. "The industry as well as, as, I think, property owners and the community are being more proactive as well as utilities, we're working together to prevent this stuff in the future," said Mr. Peters.
The future is now as we enter the peak fire months.