USA– Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is awarding $2 million to local California Fire Safe Councils to reduce the increased risk of wildfires due to massive tree mortality in Northern and Central California. According to the U.S. Forest Service, tree mortality has reached more than 29 million trees due to historic drought and bark beetle infestations. The money will be used to protect communities from wildfires in at least 18 high fire-risk counties by clearing brush and dead, dying or diseased trees for the current fire season.
Nothing is more important to PG&E than public safety, and that is why we are committed to working with the state, local agencies and organizations to help keep communities safe. In the Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests, tree mortality rates have surpassed 40 to 50 percent, and mortality is expanding into many parts of California. This challenge is unlike any weve ever seen, which is why were taking extraordinary steps to help to support our communities, said Pat Hogan, PG&E senior vice president of Electric Transmission and Distribution.
Even recent rain will not revive the millions of dead trees across California, said CAL FIRE Unit Chief Glenn Barley, coordinator of the states Tree Mortality Task Force. While the Task Force looks at continuing to provide support and assistance to the counties hit the hardest by tree mortality, we need residents across the State to ensure they are doing their part by removing dead trees and vegetation as part of their 100 feet of Defensible Space around their homes.”
This is the third consecutive year PG&E has partnered with local California Fire Safe Councils to fund shovel-ready projects. The company provided a total of $7.5 million in grants in 2014 and 2015. Current fire season projects include fuel reduction, shaded fuel breaks, emergency ingress and egress clearing and wood-chipping programs in PG&Es service area.
As a leader in encouraging grassroots movements to make communities more fire safe, the California Fire Safe Council thanks PG&E for funding projects that will help ensure public safety for communities at risk of wildfire. We are far from being out of the woods on tree mortality, and value the collaboration and support in mobilizing Californians to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfire, said Jerry Davies, Chairman of the California Fire Safe Council.
Wildfires have been devastating our rural communities for years, and the increased risk due to drought and tree mortality will only escalate this problem, said John Viegas, Chair of the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) and Glenn County Supervisor. On behalf of RCRCs 35-member counties I applaud PG&Es proactive efforts to protect our communities, steward our resources, and protect Californias precious watershed.
PG&E is continuing to respond to the drought emergency and extreme fire risk in a number of ways. The company has doubled the number of vegetation patrols around its high-voltage power lines. It continues to look for new ways to utilize advanced technology to better detect dead, dying and diseased trees earlier in the cycle, and has removed an additional 50,000 hazardous trees from near its electric facilities.
Customers can help prevent property damage, power outages and wildfires by inspecting trees on their property. PG&E will remove dead, dying or diseased trees near high-voltage power lines for free. Customers can report a hazardous tree by calling PG&E at 1-800-743-5000. To learn about how PG&E is working to improve service reliability and power line safety click here.
PG&E also is participating in the Governors Task Force on Tree Mortality. The task force is made up of state and federal agencies, local governments, utilities and various stakeholders that are coordinating emergency protective actions and monitoring ongoing conditions to address the vast tree mortality.