Powerlines
(Photo credit: Peter Kaminski / Flickr)

Power lines owned by California utility PG&E caused several recent wildfires, but it’s not the first utility to be held responsible for a dangerous blaze. More than 10 years ago, wires owned by San Diego Gas and Electric, or SDG&E, were blamed for sparking fires during a period of strong, dry winds.

Since then, SDG&E has taken major steps to help prevent future fires.

“Our biggest risk that we have is the potential for power lines to ignite a wildfire, so a lot of the steps that we’re taking is to prevent that ignition,” says Brian D’Agostino, the utility’s director of fire science and climate adaptation.

“We have right now over 190 weather stations monitoring micro-weather conditions on every circuit that we serve in the back country,” he says.

That enables the utility to shut off power when dangerous conditions arise.

And it’s making its systems more fire resistant – for example by replacing wood poles with steel poles, insulating power lines, or moving lines underground.

D’Agostino says that as the climate warms, the risk of wildfires is growing, and utilities must help protect the communities they serve.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Weather Extremes