Southern California Edison advocates protection from the threat of wildfires
■ By Gena Estrin / Contributed
There used to be a “fire season” but due to global climate change and the recent growing areas with droughts, hazardous fuel build up has increased so dramatically, that “The New Normal” is that wildfire risk is now year-round. A vicious cycle of warmer temperatures creates more destructive wildfires which then increases more climate change emissions that have plagued California with an increasing threat of wildfires. Eight out of the 20 most destructive California wildfires have occurred since 2015. The recent Carr fire in Northern California has been labeled as the most destructive in the state’s history.
Thanks to The Four Seasons at Hemet Community Association, Southern California Edison held a community meeting that was also open to the public, last Thursday, Sept. 20. Russ Brown, President of the Four Seasons at Hemet Community Board of Directors, welcomed the nearly 175 guests in attendance. Guests were an even mix of the Four Seasons community’s residence and residents from throughout the San Jacinto Valley. Prior to moving to the San Jacinto Valley, Mr. Brown, was the Police Captain of the city of Claremont for 30 years. In addition to his many duties, Russ now spearheads the community’s emergency response team. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Brown confided that for many years he viewed wildfires from the viewpoint of being part of first responders on the scene. Now he is on the other side, part of the public that are threatened by wildfires and other emergencies.
Aileen Flores, Tom Brady, and Andy Garcia from Southern California Edison gave the brief slide presentation. Protecting you and your family from the threat of wildfires is the company’s highest priority. They shared information that we as community members who have a home or business in a “high fire risk” area, that can help all of us mitigate wildfire risk. Around the perimeter of the room, there were table stations that contained more information relating to the slides of the presentation. A few of the many topics covered were:
The new normal. Wildfire Risk in the Face of Climate Change. Climate change is increasing the severity and duration of heat waves and other extreme weather events. Hazardous fuel is building up in our neighborhoods and wilderness areas.
Wildfire mitigation and grid resiliency. Southern California Edison’s employees work year-round to strengthen our system and protect against a variety of natural and man-made threats, ensuring safety and maintaining reliability. SCE has operational practices in place to reduce fire risk during extreme weather conditions. There is a complex system in place to determine if there is a need to shut down the power to an area, large or small; and a thorough gathering of data from equipment on the ground and in the air, along with human health and safety necessities are very carefully evaluated before power may be restored, so the resumption of the power won’t cause a fire in and of itself. System hardening, engineering advances, and vegetation management, are ever changing and improving by SCE. State of the art computerized meteorological monitoring and forecasting keeps SCE up to date with the moment by moment needs of the community and helps direct emergency responders where they can do the most good.
Public Safety Power Shut-off. PSPS is a practice where SCE may proactively shut off power in “high fire risk” areas to reduce the chances of fire during extreme and potentially dangerous fire conditions. They do not take this strategy lightly. There are seven or more criteria that go into such a decision. The plan is to attempt to inform customers 48 hours, and 24 hours before the power is shut off. It is recommended that customers update their contact information so they can receive these “OUTAGE ALERT” notifications. You can call SCE at 1-800-655-4555 or sign up online at SCE.com and clicking on My Account > Profile > Outage Alert Preferences. If you have not already created your personal online access to your SCE account, it is easy to do too.
There were so many other important topics covered during the presentation. Every community member can get access to the previous information and so much more by visiting the SCE website, sce.com, for very specific details and materials. After the presentation, Michael Cameron, a community member was discussing some of the material covered, with Christopher Abel, Principal Manager, Government Relations, of SCE, and they both concurred, “Fires are a fact of life.”