Utilities to cover power lines, expand weather monitoring


California utilities plan to insulate power lines, increase inspections and build new weather stations in areas at high risk for wildfires in an effort to combat increasingly destructive blazes.

Southern California Edison told legislative employees it wants to spend $582 million to cover some of its power lines and deploy new cameras to cover 90 percent of high-risk areas. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., in the meantime had announced it will inspect 5,500 additional miles of power lines and build 1,300 new weather stations for better forecasting.

Southern California Edison Business Resiliency Director Don Daigler says our practices have to change because the environment is changing.

In the past two years, California has experienced its deadliest and largest wildfires and utilities have faced increasing scrutiny for their equipment's role in sparking blazes. Last month, the Camp Fire destroyed the town of Paradise, killing more than 80 people, while the Woolsey Fire ripped through Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Southern California Edison told the state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday an outage of its equipment before the Woolsey Fire may have been caused by a guy wire and a jumper making contact. Guy wires are used to provide pole support and jumpers connect two energized lines. The official cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Pacific Gas & Electric in the meantime, also reported an outage around the time the Camp Fire sparked. The cause of that fire also remains under investigation. Both utilities have been sued.

Dawn Kamber