May 21, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Fire Risk Map For Utilities

By Tom Elias

 

It was a clear-cut case of too little and too late when the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) the other day issued its first-ever map showing where the likelihood of utility-sparked wildfires – often followed by mudslides – is highest.

The cows were already out of the barn months before this long-awaited map and its accompanying regulations made their appearance more than 10 years after the map could have and should have been drawn.

The blueprint shows not only areas of greatest risk for major blazes, but also rates various locales on their danger levels, with tougher inspections and tree-trimming requirements needed in areas of greatest menace.

It’s all because big privately-owned utilities must serve all areas, not merely those that are most convenient. That’s part of the deal giving them power-service monopolies over vast regions. With their agreement to serve even fire-risk zones comes responsibility to do it safely.

The findings are not yet in on whether either Pacific Gas & Electric Co. or the Southern California Edison Co. were in any way culpable for either the hugely-destructive Wine Country fires of last fall or the Thomas fire which ravaged Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in December and early January, followed by massively lethal and damaging mudslides.

Both companies are now defendants in multiple lawsuits. Some charge sparks from electric wires caused at least one big inferno and others claim a utility work crew spurred another.

If the areas where those alleged incidents supposedly occurred had been mapped earlier than they were, with tougher regulations applied to them, there’s at least a possibility lives, homes, crops and businesses might have been spared.

But there was no danger map when those fires broke out. Nor was there one in the months leading up to them, when it might have done some good. Creation of the map was first ordered by the PUC shortly after the 2007 Witch fire destroyed at least 1,500 homes and killed 17 persons in San Diego County. Investigators placed the blame for that fire on arcing power lines of the San Diego Gas & Electric Co., which has failed so far in efforts to force consumers to pay more than $300 million in costs not covered by insurance.

But one newspaper reported last fall that utilities repeatedly asked to slow down mapping, saying some proposed regulations would “add unnecessary costs to construction and maintenance projects in rural areas.”

The problem with those objections, apparently heeded by the PUC as it extended the mapping deadline repeatedly, is that when strong winds blow, fires in rural areas can spread to more heavily populated places, as residents of Ventura, Montecito, Santa Rosa and Calistoga learned to their dismay in late 2017.

As with many government agencies, the PUC moaned that it has insufficient staff to inspect all utility lines. But 10 years was likely time enough for just one inspector to check every power line in every high-risk area of California.

“The sad part,” Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill opined just after the Wine Country fires, “is the maps didn’t arrive before these fires…It’s an outrageous example of negligence by a regulatory agency.”

The good news is that, pressured by the results of its relaxed approach to the mapping project, the PUC has adopted new regulations. This won’t help anyone victimized by fires and mudslides last fall and early this year, but it ought to prevent at least some future damage from arcing and sparking power lines.

Utilities, led by SDG&E in last fall’s Lilac fire near Fallbrook, also show more readiness to cut off power in potentially affected areas during early stages of fires in hopes of containing damage. That worked in the Lilac blaze, knocked down much more quickly than others that burned simultaneously.

One problem: New map-related rules take effect only gradually, applying after Sept. 1 to areas where fire peril is highest and not until June 30 of next year in other places. Utility companies will have to file annual reports on their fire-prevention efforts in high-risk areas, but the first isn’t due until Oct. 1.

These are positive developments that could prevent a lot of future damage. To the PUC’s utter shame, there appears to be no good reason these things could not have happened much earlier.

Photo: LAFD
Related Posts

Father-Son Duo RSG Janitorial Services Finds Joy In Serving Customers

May 21, 2024

May 21, 2024

Finding handymen and janitorial services can be a hard pick. RSG Janitorial Services, based in Los Angeles, offers a mix...

LA Pride 2024 Announces George Takei, Cassandro, and Kristin Crowley as Grand Marshals

May 21, 2024

May 21, 2024

Celebrate “Power in Pride” with live broadcasts, a block party, and special events This year’s LA Pride Parade will celebrate...

Target Slashes Prices on 5,000 Everyday Items for Summer Savings

May 21, 2024

May 21, 2024

Consumers to Enjoy Reduced Prices on Essentials Starting Now Target Corporation announced on Monday it will lower the everyday regular...

Check Out Local Library Events and Weekly Reading Programs For This Week

May 21, 2024

May 21, 2024

Brentwood, Palisades, and West Los Angeles Libraries Are Ready for Summer As summer approaches, local libraries are gearing up for...

Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program Opens Second Round of Applications

May 20, 2024

May 20, 2024

Applications Accepted Until June 4, Funding and Support Have Been Increased  The Los Angeles County Rent Relief Program (LARRP) has...

Detectives Seek Public’s Help to Locate Attilio Brillembourg, Stepfather of Greek Princess

May 20, 2024

May 20, 2024

Stepfather of Princess Tatiana of Greece is Missing in Malibu Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are seeking...

Culver City Council to Review Parking Rates, Proclaims May Heritage Months

May 19, 2024

May 19, 2024

Gender-Neutral Restrooms Ordinance and City Proclamations Announced On Monday, the City Council of Culver City unanimously agreed to revisit new...

Hepatitis A Case Reported in Beverly Hills Whole Foods Employee

May 19, 2024

May 19, 2024

Health Officials Advise Vaccination for Seafood Customers  The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is investigating a hepatitis A...

Assault Suspect Arrested After High-Speed, Wrong Way Chase on 405 Freeway

May 19, 2024

May 19, 2024

Erratic Driver Rams Police Car, Causes Multiple Collisions During Pursuit An erratic driver suspected of assault with a deadly weapon...

Mayor Bass Orders Increased Police Presence on LA Metro After Surge in Violence

May 17, 2024

May 17, 2024

A Shocking Murder Was Committed on a Metro Bus After Announcement Mayor Karen Bass has directed an increase in law...

Inaugural Design Miami.LA Fair Opens in Holmby Hills

May 17, 2024

May 17, 2024

Exclusive Access and Dynamic Talks From May 16-20 The inaugural edition of Design Miami.LA opened yesterday, running until May 20,...

(Video) Design Miami LA Is Now Open in Holmby Hills

May 17, 2024

May 17, 2024

Sainte Marguerite en Provence Is the exclusive rosé sponsor. Welcome to the Greenhouse. @culvercitywlanews Design Miami LA Is Now Open...

Shock-A-Go-Go Film Festival Returns to Lumiere Cinema in Beverly Hills

May 17, 2024

May 17, 2024

A Weekend of Horror, and Cult Classics With Exclusive Q&A Sessions The Shock-A-Go-Go Film Festival is set to return to...

Devastating Fire Closes Historic Westwood Restaurant, Causing Serious Damage

May 16, 2024

May 16, 2024

Roozbeh Farahanipour Launches GoFundMe to Restore Cultural Tribute The Persian Gulf Restaurant and Museum in Westwood has sustained serious damage...