Preparing for Wildfire Season amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Southern California Edison (SCE)
Along The Old Road in Valencia, Willie Rios and his crew are installing covered conductor (insulated power lines) — work that has been deemed critical by the state of California during the COVID-19 pandemic. As California prepares for the 2020 wildfire season, Rios and his crew are one of many continuing Southern California Edison’s wildfire mitigation efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under California’s Stay At Home order, SCE is balancing between critical work that needs to continue for the safety of its communities with the needs of the families and kids staying safe at home.
“Southern California Edison is deferring noncritical work while moving forward with critical work to manage public safety and imminent reliability issues, reduce the risk of wildfires and the scale of Public Safety Power Shutoff events during wildfire season and keep our communities safe,” said Pedro Pizarro, president and CEO of Edison International, the parent company of SCE.
While this means that outages associated with critical work will be necessary, SCE is doing all it can to reduce the impacts to its customers, including the use of mobile generators where feasible, scheduling work during overnight hours, working while lines are energized, and increasing the number of crews on projects.
The critical work that SCE is doing to protect communities from the threat of wildfires is part of its annual Wildfire Mitigation Plan filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The plan is a roadmap of how SCE will continue to harden its electrical infrastructure, bolster situational awareness capabilities, and enhance operational practices by harnessing the power of data and technology. This includes:
- Deploying more than 850 weather stations by the end of 2020 and using 161 wildfire cameras that we have installed that thoroughly cover high-fire risk areas to better forecast potential wildfire conditions and be more effective in responding to fire events when they occur.
- Replacing more than 700 miles of power lines with covered conductor in 2020 and installing fast-acting fuses at more than 3,000 locations to help reduce wildfire risks.
- Conducting enhanced inspections of our infrastructure in high fire risk areas, which make up more than 25% of SCE’s service territory.
- Inspecting 900,000 trees annually and trimming or removing those trees that may pose a risk of coming into contact with power lines.
- Engaging vulnerable customers and partnering with community-based organizations and community stakeholders to support their resiliency.
As in past years, when there is a high risk for a wildfire, SCE may declare a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) and temporarily shut off power to some of our customers to prevent the electric system from becoming the source of an ignition when conditions indicate extreme fire danger, such as strong winds, low humidity, and presence of dry vegetation.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, SCE recognizes that PSPS is a disruptive hardship and has been working to reduce the scope and impact of PSPS. However, PSPS will remain one of the tools SCE will use to protect public safety as authorized by the CPUC. The utility is making sure customers are informed and prepared for PSPS and will continue to work closely with local and tribal governments, public safety partners, and essential service providers to ensure timely information is provided before, during, and after such an event is called.
To learn more about SCE’s wildfire mitigation efforts or to join an upcoming online community meeting, please visit www.sce.com/wildfire. For more information on PSPS and to sign up for alerts, please visit www.sce.com/psps.