SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) on Tuesday submitted its supplemental report to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) about two incidents on its electric system near the Camp Fire. PG&E is also releasing the report publicly.
The company reiterated, “The loss of life, homes and businesses in the Camp Fire is truly devastating. Our focus continues to be on assessing our infrastructure to further enhance safety, restoring electric and gas service where possible, and helping customers begin to recover and rebuild. Throughout our service area, we are committed to doing everything we can to further reduce the risk of wildfire.”
20-Day Supplemental Report
PG&E submitted two Electric Incident Reports (EIR) to the CPUC; one on Nov. 8 and one on Nov. 16. Today, PG&E publicly released a letter to the CPUC supplementing those reports. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The previous preliminary incident reports noted outages on the Caribou-Palermo 115kV transmission line at 6:15 a.m. and the Big Bend 1101 12kV at 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 8. On Nov. 8, PG&E was able to conduct an aerial patrol of the Caribou-Palermo site and observed damage on the line at a tower. As noted in today’s letter to the CPUC, a suspension insulator supporting a transposition jumper had separated from an arm on the tower. Once PG&E could access the site on the ground, it found a broken C-hook attached to the separated suspension insulator that had connected the suspension insulator to a tower arm. PG&E also observed a flash mark on the tower.
With regard to the Big Bend 1101 distribution circuit, PG&E conducted a patrol on Nov. 9. and observed a pole and other equipment on the ground with bullets and bullet holes at the break point of the pole and on the equipment. On Nov. 12, another PG&E patrol observed wires down and damaged and downed poles. PG&E also found several snapped trees, with some on top of the downed wires.
Beginning on November 13, 2018, CAL FIRE requested that PG&E assist it in collecting evidence related to the Big Bend outage.
These incidents remain under investigation, and this information is preliminary. The causes may not be fully understood until additional information is available, including information that can only be obtained through examination and testing of the equipment retained by CAL FIRE. PG&E is cooperating with CAL FIRE.
Expanding and Accelerating Wildfire Safety Measures
Given the continued and growing threat of wildfire, PG&E is evolving and expanding its Community Wildfire Safety Program. Following last year’s wildfires, PG&E launched the program in March as an additional precautionary measure to further reduce wildfire risks and help keep its customers and the communities it serves safe. Ongoing and expanded actions include:
Real-Time Monitoring and Intelligence
Coordinating prevention and response efforts by monitoring wildfire risk in real-time from its Wildfire Safety Operations Center. Expanding its network of weather stations to enhance weather forecasting and modeling. By 2022, PG&E will add 1,300 new weather stations in high fire-risk areas. Installing nearly 600 new high-definition cameras in high fire-threat areas, increasing coverage across these areas to more than 90 percent.
New and Enhanced Safety Measures
Further enhancing vegetation management efforts with an increased focus on vegetation that poses a higher potential for wildfire risk, such as overhanging branches and limbs directly above and around power lines, and tree species at an increased risk of falling into power lines, as well as dead and dying trees. Conducting accelerated safety inspections of over 5,500 miles of transmission lines, including approximately 50,000 structures in high fire-threat areas, in addition to routine inspections and maintenance. This includes ground or climbing inspections, as well as aerial imagery captured by drones and in some cases, helicopter, to further complement and enhance visual inspections. Taking action right away to address any immediate risk to public safety found during accelerated inspections. Similar inspections of distribution lines in high fire-threat areas are planned to begin in early 2019. Disabling of automatic reclosing of circuit breakers and reclosers in high fire-risk areas during wildfire season. Proactively turning off electric power for safety, only as a last resort, when extreme fire danger conditions are forecasted, and helping customers prepare by providing early warning notification when and where possible.
Longer-term Electric System Hardening
Installing stronger and more resilient poles and covered power lines across 7,000 miles of highest fire-risk areas over the course of the next ten years, reducing the likelihood of damage from debris, animals and birds. Replacing equipment to further reduce risk to its system and tailoring upgrades based on terrain and weather conditions using more granular analysis of fire-prone regions. Piloting new resilience zones to provide electricity to community resources and help reduce the potential impact of a Public Safety Power Shutoff event.
Wildfire Risk is Growing
California faces an ever-increasing threat from catastrophic wildfires, extreme weather and higher temperatures. Recent state and federal climate assessments warn the threat is only growing. California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment found the average area burned statewide would increase 77 percent if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The Assessment also said prolonged drought and higher temperatures will triple the frequency of wildfires.
Multiple factors contribute to wildfire risk across PG&E’s service area. These include vast tree mortality following a historic five-year drought. Fire season is now extended due to prolonged periods of high temperatures, extreme dryness, tinder-dry grass and record-high winds increasing the number of wildfires and making them more dangerous. More than half of PG&E’s service area is in extreme or high fire-risk areas as designated by the CPUC’s Fire-Threat Map.
More information on the Community Wildfire Safety Program is available at www.pge.com/wildfiresafety.
Cautionary Statement Concerning Forward-Looking Statements
This news release includes forward-looking statements that are not historical facts, including statements about the beliefs, expectations, estimates, future plans and strategies of PG&E and PG&E Corporation. These statements are based on current expectations and assumptions, which management believes are reasonable, and on information currently available to management, but are necessarily subject to various risks and uncertainties. In addition to the risk that these assumptions prove to be inaccurate, factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements include the timing and outcome of the investigations into the Camp Fire and other factors disclosed in PG&E and PG&E Corporation’s and the Utility’s annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2017, their most recent quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2018, and their subsequent reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. PG&E and PG&E Corporation undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether due to new information, future events or otherwise.