As thousands of firefighters battle extreme fire conditions fueled by near-record drought across California, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) responded last month, announcing $5.5 million to local Fire Safe Councils. The effort is a private, public and community partnership aimed at preventing even more fires from sparking during the traditional September-October peak of California wildfire season. The money is being used for fuel reduction, emergency access and defensible space projects by local Fire Safe Councils throughout Northern and Central California.
CAL FIRE has already responded to more than 4,900 wildfires this year, 1,000 more than average for this time of year. The fires have burned thousands of acres, destroyed homes and forced residents to evacuate. PG&E is funding about 100 local Fire Safe Council projects to create fire breaks in and around communities, improve emergency access roads and help low-income residents clear defensible space from around their properties to protect them from fire. The funds, some of which were distributed beginning in July, are being used to hire contractors to complete the Fire Safe Council projects, freeing up CAL FIRE personnel to answer the call of the ever-increasing number of fires in the state.
"Nothing is more important at PG&E than safety. In addition to partnering with CAL FIRE and local Fire Safe Councils to reduce the risk of wildfire in the communities we serve, when a fire threatens public safety, we support firefighters by identifying and mitigating potential hazards and coordinating response efforts," said Chris Johns, President of PG&E.
"The California Fire Safe Council and the over 200 local Fire Safe Councils thank PG&E for providing funding for projects to meet our mission of mobilizing Californians to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfire," stated Pat Kidder, Chairman of the California Fire Safe Council. "This proactive effort by PG&E to collaborate with and fund California's local Fire Safe Councils this summer and fall helps ensure public safety through fuel reduction, defensible space and fire-safe messaging for California's communities at risk from wildfire."
"On behalf of California's rural counties, we applaud PG&E for recognizing the immediate and ongoing need for forest management practices that effect fire prevention, such as defensible space projects," said Nate Beason, Chair of the Rural County Representatives of California. "This collaborative partnership between PG&E, CAL FIRE and California Fire Safe Councils demonstrates the benefit of an innovative strategic approach to funding prevention efforts."
Additionally, PG&E is supporting CAL FIRE through early fire detection work. The utility is funding the installation of remote sensing cameras in 20 look-out towers. It is also funding four planes to conduct aerial patrols six days per week covering the Sierra and coastal ranges looking for smoke or fire starts.
Finally, PG&E is also partnering with CAL FIRE on its "One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire" public safety campaign to minimize the frequency, size and cost of wildfires started by human ignition. Along with promoting safe outdoor equipment use, and proper vehicle use and maintenance to prevent fires, CAL FIRE urges all Californians to learn more about debris burning and campfire safety. You can find out how, when and what to burn safely, and how to practice campfire safety and obtain a permit here at One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire.