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PG&E Partners with CAL FIRE to Combat Bark Beetles during Drought

Bark Beetles Killing Millions of Trees, Increasing Wildfire Risk

Release Date: August 12, 2015
Contact: PG&E External Communications (415) 973-5930

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — As dozens of wildfires rage across California, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is joining forces with CAL FIRE to ask for the public's help to reduce the risk of additional wildfires by safely removing or pruning dead or dying trees from their property.

PG&E is supporting CAL FIRE's "Prepare for Bark Beetle" public awareness campaign by increasing inspections, and pruning or removing hazardous trees around its power lines. The utility also is providing funding to CAL FIRE for broadcast, print and billboard advertising to make homeowners aware that bark beetles are killing millions of trees in California, which then become fuel for fire, and for educating residents on how to safely take action.

"We are strongly committed to public safety and working closely with our state agency community partners to protect the public, particularly during this prolonged drought. We have seen first-hand the devastation of diseased and dying trees in the forest, and we are working every day to help identify and reduce the risks," said Pat Hogan, PG&E Vice President of Asset Management.

The four-year drought has caused many trees to die or become very unhealthy, making them susceptible to disease and infestations from pests such as bark beetles. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, an annual aerial survey on tree mortality found it was more than double last year's levels – an estimated 3.3 million trees were killed. These weakened trees are a hazard because they can fall on power lines and homes, causing injuries, property damage, power outages and wildfires.

"In some communities, bark beetles have killed 85 percent of the trees. These dead trees are just waiting to go up in flames. We appreciate PG&E's tree work and support on this critical public safety issue, and we urge homeowners to help reduce wildfire risk by removing dead trees on their property, and properly maintaining healthy trees. These steps will help create a healthy, more resilient forest for generations to come," said Dennis Mathisen, CAL FIRE Chief of Public Education.

Take these steps to stay safe

PG&E is asking residents to help prevent power outages and wildfires by inspecting trees on their property. At the same time, it is important for anyone pruning or removing trees to do so safely, as vegetation removal work can be dangerous and also can cause power outages. This year alone, PG&E customers have experienced 81 power outages caused by third parties pruning or removing trees.

Pruning trees next to high voltage power lines is extremely dangerous. Only people with special training are permitted to work within 10 feet of these lines.

For distribution lines to your home, please follow these guidelines:

  • All live power lines are dangerous. While pruning or removing a tree, look up first and stay clear of all power lines.
  • If you see a dead, dying or diseased tree near a power line, call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 to report it.
  • If you notice tension on your service line drop to your home or business, call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 to request a short-term disconnection to allow you to prune the tree without risking electrical contact.

For more information on how to identify and dead, dying or diseased trees and how to reduce your risk, log onto www.PrepareforBarkBeetle.org or www.pge.com/treesanddrought.

PG&E is taking a number of steps to prevent wildfires as part of its drought emergency response plan including:

  • Conducting enhanced ground patrols to inspect, and prune or remove dead or dying trees that could fall into lines and spark a fire.
  • Funding $2 million to local Fire Safe Councils for fire fuel reduction, emergency access projects, and public education.
  • Funding cameras for early fire detection.
  • Funding daily fire patrols from 3:30 in the afternoon until dusk – the time of day when wildfires are most likely to ignite because hot, dry weather is at its peak.

About PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation's cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/index.page.

 

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