The extreme drought in the American Southwest has caused massive environmental damage and killed 100 million trees in California. To try and combat this, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is awarding $2 million in funding to 43 local Fire Safe Councils and other charitable organizations to reduce the threat of wildfires by creating fuel breaks and clearing emergency access points to help firefighters be more effective.

The project is a joint effort between PG&E, CAL FIRE, and the Nevada Fire Safe Council. PG&E has a stake in reducing the threat of wildfires, because they manage “141,215 circuit miles of electric distribution lines and 18,616 circuit miles of interconnected transmission lines,” which may be damaged in the event of a wildfire. PG&E inspects all overhead electric lines each year, and inspects trees along power lines in high fire-danger areas twice a year. PG&E removed more than 236,000 trees last year that posed a risk to the public or to power lines. Working with other local stakeholders to reduce the threat of wildfires is not only beneficial to the community but is also in the financial interest of PG&E. This is the fourth year that PG&E has funded local Fire-safe Council projects, and follows $7.5 million in grants in 2014 and 2015.

(Northern California Fire Crew works to contain fire. Wikimedia/Andrea Booher)

The groups involved in this project are long-term, local stakeholders that are specifically sensitive to the threat posed by wildfires. PG&E is one of the largest natural gas and electric energy companies in the country and serves about 16 million people in Northern and Central California. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) manages over 31 million acres of California wildland, as well as emergency services in 36 counties. The Fire Safe Council of Nevada is a 501(c)(3) non-profit was formed by local citizens; the Fire Safe Council works to reduce the threat of wildfires by providing landowner assistance and executing fuel reduction programs

This partnership between PG&E, the Fire Safe Council, and CALFIRE represents the type of engagement between diverse stakeholders, ranging from private companies to regulators to non-profits and consumers, which is critical in addressing threats to critical infrastructure and increasing resilience.

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. PG&E, Fire Safe Council of Nevada County Join Forces to Combat Wildfire Risk in Nevada County – YubaNet
  2. PG&E Awards $2 Million in Wildfire Prevention Project Grants – California Fire Safe Council
  3. Company Profile – PG&E
  4. About the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County – Fire Safe Council of Nevada County
  5. About CAL FIRE – CAL FIRE