At PG&E, nothing is more important than keeping our customers and communities safe. Extreme weather is increasing the number of wildfires and length of wildfire season in California, and California must continue to adapt to meet the challenges of this changing environment. Our current vegetation clearance practices focus on meeting and maintaining State and Federal clearance regulations. For more information, visit laws and regulations.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted a High Fire-Threat District map in January 2018, along with vegetation and fire safety standards for high fire-threat areas. We have enhanced our routine vegetation management work to meet these new standards and now require greater clearances between trees, limbs and power lines to help reduce wildfire risks and increase safety.
As an additional precautionary measure intended to further reduce wildfire risk, we are also working with customers in the highest fire-threat areas to create fire defense zones near or under power lines. This work involves reducing vegetation (trees, bushes, shrubs and limbs) that could act as fuel in a wildfire. We want to work together to help increase defensible space in local communities and improve access for first responders in the event of a wildfire.
A. Outside high-fire threat districts, plant only small trees that at maturity are no taller than 25 feet.
B. Inside high-fire threat districts, plant only low-growing, fire-resistant shrubs.
Trees need space to grow both above and below ground. Proper tree and site selection ensures safe, trouble-free beauty and pleasure for years to come.
It's important to know whether you are in a high fire-threat area to understand what vegetation is safe for planting. To determine if you are in an area that is at elevated or extreme risk of fire, review the CPUC High Fire-Threat District Map.
If you are in a high fire-threat area, give special attention to defensible space and fire-safe landscaping around your home. Only low-growing (<12” at maturity), high-moisture plants with low sap or resin content should be planted within 15 feet of overhead distribution power lines. Trees, shrubs or other large vegetation should not be planted adjacent to power lines. Visit CAL FIRE's defensible space recommendations.
If you are not in a high fire-threat area, be sure to use small trees when planting under or near power lines. Plant larger, house-shading trees far away from power lines. When planting near distribution lines, select only small trees that will grow no taller than 25 feet at maturity. When planting near transmission lines, plant only low-growing shrubs under the wire zone and only grasses within the area directly below the tower. Along the border of the transmission line right-of-way, plant only small trees or shrubs no taller than 10 feet.
Review our visual guides to planting trees both within and outside of a high fire-threat area, below.
CPUC fire safety regulations require increased tree clearances as the voltage of the line increases. Transmission lines carry much higher voltages than distribution lines and regulations require even more trimming. If you live near a transmission corridor and want to plant trees and shrubs that provide screening while protecting tree health and beauty, follow the guidelines below. If you have particular questions about trees near transmission lines, ask to speak to a PG&E transmission line arborist at 1-800-743-5000.
Every day, we conduct gas pipeline safety work across northern and central California to ensure that the millions of customers in the communities we serve have the safest and most reliable gas system in the nation. PG&E’s Community Pipeline Safety Initiative helps to ensure that the pipeline is operating safely by looking at the area above and around the natural gas transmission lines to be certain that first responders and our own emergency response crews have critical access to the pipelines in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. It is because of our commitment to safety that we have spent or earmarked nearly $3 billion to strengthen our gas infrastructure all throughout the California communities we're proud to serve.
Ensuring the safety of our customers, their families, the communities and our employees will always be our number one priority. We know how important safety is to you and nothing is more important to us.
Trees, tree roots, brush and structures can threaten safety because they can block firefighters' access during emergencies and can prevent our crews from performing important safety and maintenance work. Tree roots also pose a safety risk because they can damage the protective coating of underground pipelines—leading to corrosion and leaks.
According to leading national experts on pipeline safety, and first responders, putting safety first means replacing trees and other obstacles located too close to underground pipelines. Doing so will help ensure public safety by preventing gas leaks and speed up response times by first responders and our emergency crews in the event of any emergency or natural disaster.
We understand how important trees and natural landscape are to families, the community and the environment. Trees are important to us, too. We want all of our customers to know that when a tree needs to be removed for safety reasons, we will work together with the property owner or civic leaders to ensure the area is restored and replacement trees are planted in a safe area.
As always, we're listening to the concerns of our customers and the community to make sure that this work is done and done right.
We're absolutely committed to working with each customer and the community to create a common understanding about each other's needs so that we can reach a shared solution that ensures safety and the beauty of the communities we live in.
Our commitment to safety is not just about today, it's about our future. It's about making sure our children and grandchildren have the safest neighborhoods in California and the nation for years to come.
Trees matter to us and we know they matter to the customers and communities we proudly serve. We are absolutely committed to ensuring the safety of the community while protecting our local environment.
Wherever gas safety work is being done, we will make every effort to protect the area wildlife and trees. Before conducting any safety work that could lead to replacing trees, for example, we will complete environmental reviews, including surveys of birds and other wildlife.
If a tree or shrub has to be replaced or moved, it will be because of safety reasons or risks to homeowners, first responders or the community. To be clear, we will only replace trees that pose a threat to public safety. We will work very closely with property owners, as well as local communities, to restore the area and replace trees.
We continue to work collaboratively with our customers to provide education around safe landscaping near gas lines to preserve the natural landscape while ensuring the area around the pipeline remains safe and clear for first responders.
For questions about PG&E's Community Pipeline Safety Initiative please call 1-877-259-8314.
Learn about best practices for keeping the pipeline area safe and clear.
Visit the following articles to learn more about how PG&E is partnering with our customers and communities on this critical gas safety work:
At PG&E, safety is our highest priority. Coming into contact with underground or overhead power lines, equipment or gas pipelines can cause serious injury or death.
Whether you're planting a tree or digging holes for fence posts, call 811 at least two business days before you start. The location of underground lines will then be marked so you can avoid them and dig safely. Calling is free, and it's the law.
Here’s what to avoid when choosing a location:
Managed by the California Polytechnic State University, SelecTree has more than 1,400 different trees in its database. The site includes 49 different criteria to search within four categories: Site Characteristics, Tree Characteristics, Maintenance and Use. You can search by tree attribute, which will help you choose the Right Tree for the Right Place. There’s also a page dedicated to Utility Precautions that will assist your tree selection by providing a comprehensive list of appropriate tree species to plant near utility lines. To begin your search, visit SelecTree’s Tree Selection Guide.
Palm trees grow only one way, and that is up. Unlike other trees, palms have a single growing point. PG&E can prune other trees so the growth will be directed to the side or away from overhead power lines, but growth of palm trees cannot be redirected. Pruning too close to the center of the fronds, or the heart of the palm, can actually kill the tree. The minimum clearance that utilities are required to prune the fronds from power lines may result in the palm’s death. When landscaping with palms, plant them well away from power lines. We recommend planting at least 50 feet away to reduce the risk of windblown fronds contacting the power lines. PG&E must prune or remove these palms when located inappropriately.
PG&E will remove the tree as close to the ground as practical and leave the wood at the site. The stump will not be ground. Or, PG&E will prune or top the palm tree (leaving the wood at the site) to make it safe for your contractor to complete the removal. A palm may be moved by the owner before it is within 10 feet of the high voltage power lines.
Tall bamboo planted near power lines can contact wires and create potentially costly and dangerous power outages. Unlike trees, bamboo grass cannot be pruned to direct the growth away from power lines. Stay safe and keep the lights on. Plant power line-friendly bamboo.
This fun Arbor Day activity is useful any time of year!