- Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) said Wednesday it will bury distribution lines in the town of Paradise, Calif., and other areas in Butte County hit by the 2018 Camp Fire caused by the utility's equipment.
- Burying the lines is a five-year project PG&E will tackle as it replaces natural gas lines in the town. The work will be done at "no additional cost to the town," officials said.
- About 90% of homes in Paradise were burned during last November's Camp Fire. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection earlier this month concluded it was caused, at least in part, by PG&E's transmission lines.
PG&E announced the decision to place underground power lines at a Paradise Town Council meeting last night, having "weighed many factors in its decision."
The undertaking is "part of our commitment to help this community recover and to harden our electric system to protect against wildfires," Aaron Johnson, vice president of electric operations at PG&E, told the council. "We decided to rebuild in this way after a careful review of factors, town planning and safety considerations."
Johnson said the decision is "just one of many ways" PG&E is working to help communities recover.
Paradise is an ideal location for undergrounding, the utility said in a blog post, because it also needs to replace 74 miles of damaged gas lines, providing the opportunity for "joint trenching" for both electric and gas infrastructure. The process will take years, however, as the new distribution system will need to be designed around existing water, gas and drainage systems.
While it constructs the project, PG&E said it will also be installing "temporary overhead service" to meet individual and neighborhood needs.
California's utilities are rushing to prepare for the next summer wildfire season, and the state's Public Utilities Commission is currently reviewing mitigation plans made more rigorous by new state laws. Proposed approvals would make some minor changes, but regulators say plans submitted by the state's three large investor-owned utilities comply with SB 901, directing electric companies to improve safety.