Credit: CAL FIRE
December 12, 2017 - SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—A new aerial survey released on Monday by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) shows that trees continue to die at a rapid rate in California. Even with record rains last winter and the drought declared over, these dead trees continue to be a public safety hazard near roads, communities and critical infrastructure. With public safety as its top priority, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has committed significant resources to removing trees impacted by drought or bark beetle throughout its service area. During 2017, PG&E expects to have removed approximately 148,000 dead or dying trees that could threaten its power lines. This is on top of the 1.4 million trees it prunes or removes under its routine vegetation management program each year.
The USFS announced it has identified an additional 27 million trees since its last survey in November, 2016, bringing the total since 2010 to 129 million. Members of the Governor’s Tree Mortality Task Force, made up of more than 80 state and federal agencies, local governments, energy companies –including PG&E- and others have been working together to address epidemic tree mortality.
“We have made significant progress to help reduce wildfire risk by removing dead and dying trees, and we’re not slowing down. We will continue this critical safety work in 2018 and expand our fuel management efforts in high fire-risk areas,” said PG&E President and Chief Operating Officer Nick Stavropoulos.
In 2018, PG&E’s expanded fuel management work within designated high-fire risk areas will include: reducing vegetation near electric distribution lines; providing access space for emergency responders; maintaining existing fuel breaks and connecting new fuel breaks to existing ones created by other private or public entities; and performing long-term fuel management. This work may also be conducted in areas previously cleared or impacted by wildfires and is above and beyond state and federal mandated vegetation clearance requirements.
“As an elected leader in a severely impacted area, I’ve witnessed first-hand the hard work and incredible support from PG&E to remove dead and dying trees. Their continued commitment in 2018 speaks volumes about their unwavering focus on safety and their customers,” said Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler.
Tree Mortality Crisis Response
Since 2013, PG&E has invested $1.6 billion in its vegetation management programs to reduce power outages and wildfire risks. Since the tree mortality crisis began in 2014, PG&E added the following enhanced measures to address areas particularly affected by drought and bark beetles.
- Increased foot and aerial patrols along power lines in high fire-risk areas to twice a year and up to four times a year in some locations.
- Expects to patrol 65 percent of overhead power lines a second time this year.
- Expects to remove approximately 148,000 dead or dying trees this year.
- Since 2014, provided $11.5 million to local Fire Safe Councils (FSC) for fuel reduction projects in communities.
- Provided $2 million to local FSCs for 28 highly-programmable remote-sensing cameras on critical fire lookout towers.
- Launched daily aerial fire detection patrols to improve the spotting and speed of fire response.
- Deployed LiDAR (Light-detecting and Ranging) remote sensing technology to help identify dead and dying trees near high voltage lines.
Additionally, PG&E is offering no-cost dead tree clean-up assistance to customers with trees felled by PG&E to protect power lines in 11 counties which have declared tree mortality emergencies. The company also is offering this service to customers in areas impacted by recent wildfires. For more information or to sign up for the program, call 1-800-743-5000.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com and pge.com/news.