Pole Clearing in Wilderness Areas

PG&E clears poles which are located in areas of high fire danger (State Responsibility Areas) and near equipment with the potential to expel hot material. Fire agencies (such as California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) designate fire-danger zones.

Equipment and Power Lines Inspection

PG&E employs private contract companies to inspect the power lines. They are responsible for identifying pole/transmission structures which require firebreaks and prescribed vegetation-control work. Each year, from October to April, the Vegetation Control Department inspects 87, 352 miles of utility lines and over 120,000 poles and transmission structures in State Responsibility Areas. That number grows every year as people move to rural areas and new power lines are added daily
California Laws require utilities to keep these poles clear of vegetation.

Public Resource Code 4292 is our guide. We create fire breaks based on the following criteria:

Pole Clearing
  • Radial Clearance (Ground Level): We measure 10 ft out from the pole, and clear all flammable material in a circle from the ground up to a height of 8 feet.
  • Vertical Clearance (0-8 feet): We remove all brush, limbs and foliage of living vegetation within 10 ft of the pole and up 8 ft from the ground.
  • 8 feet up to the High Voltage Lines: We will remove any dead, diseased or dying limbs within 10 ft of the pole under the power lines.

Pole Marking and Tagging

Poles and transmission structures we identify as needing a firebreak are assigned a unique 6-digit number. If you find this aluminum tag attached to a pole, you have found a pole that requires a firebreak.
Pole Marking and Tagging

In addition to the number plates, an aluminum shape tag will be on each subject pole indicating the type of vegetation work that was performed at that pole location.
  • Triangles: No Vegetation work is to be performed.
  • Octagons: A Customer Maintained location.
  • Square: Vegetation was cleared and EPA approved herbicide applied.
  • Circle & Pentagon: Vegetation cleared with no herbicide application.
  • Diamond: Herbicide Treatment Only

Pole Clearing Tags

Inspectors should notify customers, either in person or by use of a Door Hanger, vegetation control work is needed. All our contractors are required to carry identification with them. If you ever have a question as to their identity or the company they work for, please ask them to show you their ID.

Methods of Vegetation Control

We use several different methods for keeping flammable vegetation from growing beneath our poles:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Approved Herbicides

Permission to apply herbicides will be obtained from all customers prior to work being performed. If a customer gives our contractors permission, contractors may apply an EPA-approved herbicide, after they clear bare earth to prevent more vegetation from emerging. The herbicides are applied during the rainy season because they require moisture to activate their ingredients. This typically occurs between November and April.

Manual Clearing

When customers prefer not to have herbicide applied or the environment is not favorable for herbicide application, we clear the pole manually using a weed whip and McLeod rake – typically April through June. If vegetation grows back, another clearing is required. These treatments typically occur between July and September.

Examples of Manual Pole Clearing

Customer Maintained

A customer may agree to maintain their landscaping around the pole if they sign a Vegetation Maintenance Agreement. This is an agreement to keep vegetation around the pole in a condition that won’t allow a fire to spread. This agreement is kept on file by PG&E and is valid until it is revoked by PG&E or the customer.


Vegetation Control crews are instructed to remove any debris resulting from the creation of the required firebreak. If the customer has been notified, debris can be left on site for a scheduled pick up twenty four (24) hours after the work has been completed.