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Disaster Talks: How To Prevent Wildfires for Electric Utilities

27th Jul, 22

Since 2002, 1 out of every 8 acres in California has been burned by wildfire. That’s like if 1/8 of New Jersey down to Georgia suddenly caught fire. 

 

This is only worsened by record droughts (2021 was Californias 2nd driest year on record), climate change, and aging infrastructure.  

 

So how can utilities mitigate the risks of wildfire, especially when it’s becoming an increasingly global issue?  

 

Evan Stinson, Manager at AiDash sat down with ISA Board Certified Master Arborist and former Senior Vegetation Program Manager at PG&E, Robert Warwick, to get his perspective.  

 

You can watch the full interview below or read on for the three key takeaways. 

 

Watch the wildfire mitigation full interview 

Top Three Takeaways 

Takeaway 1: Treat fire season as 365 days a year. 

In California, “fire season” has increased by more than 80 days — going from 4 months to over 6 months of the year.

 

Not only that, but acres burned outside of “red flag warning days” are up over 500%. 

 

You can see the issue: Traditional fire season is 50% longer than it used to be, but these out-of-season and non-warning-day fires are also up dramatically. 

 

Climate change, droughts and other factors are only “adding fuel to the fire.”

  

That means that you have to start looking at fire season as an all-year-long danger: No days off.

 

Strategic grid hardening is a must, and you need to have a plan in place to react quickly should a disaster strike. 

 

Takeaway 2: Segment your system based on risk factors.  

With these multiplying risks, utilities have to start breaking away from traditional wildfire mitigation measures. 

 

It’s time to take it a step further and actually segment your network by risk factors. 

 

What that looks like is up to you, but a few things to consider are: 

  • Weather data 

  • Vegetation data 

  • Topography, such as natural fire breaks   

  • Population density and spread impact 

Then, create a matrix to score segments based on those factors, with a low – medium – high risk score.  

 

Once you have that matrix in place you can develop a plan to keep a closer eye and perform more grid hardening on your highest risk areas.  

 

Pulling this together manually can be a challenge, but with satellites and AI you can do it all with the press of a button.  

 

Takeaway 3: Work proactively with your regulators to decrease liability. 

No matter what you do, Mother Nature is undefeated.  

 

Disasters are inevitable. But what you can do is work proactively to decrease your liability. 

 

First, look into insurance (wildfire, flood, hurricane, etc.).  

 

However, in some places you just can’t get the insurance you need, and utilities may still be held liable even if you do everything right.  

 

Next, be proactive with your regulators. They want to see data that proves you’re doing your due diligence to keep people safe and actively working a plan.  

 

Take your risk segments, create a strategic work plan — based on data — and proactively bring this to your regulators.  

 

They’ll have the confidence that you’re on top of things, be much more in your favor should an incident occur. Plus, you may even get more funding out of it if you can prove safety increases based on more budget.  

 

Want to see how satellites and AI can help you mitigate the risk of wildfires? Talk to a specialist today.