Pacific Gas and Electric Co said on Wednesday it was burying 10,000 miles of power lines in high-risk fire zones to prevent wildfires as part of a safety initiative announced in California’s Butte County that would take more than one year to complete.
The utility maintains more than 25,000 miles of overhead distribution power lines in the highest fire-risk zones, or more than 30% of its total distribution overhead system, according to PG&E.
The company emerged from bankruptcy last year. It had sought protection from creditors after wildfires sparked by its equipment in 2017 and 2018 drove the utility’s potential liabilities into tens of billions of dollars.
In 2020, California suffered its most damaging wildfire season on record in terms of acreage burned. As of May, California authorities documented over 1,000 more wildfires across the state this year than had erupted by the same time last year.
Burying power lines, or undergrounding, lessens the need for public safety power shutoffs, which are a last resort during dry, windy conditions to reduce the risk of trees touching live power lines and sparking a wildfire.
PG&E serves more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)