© 2023 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Auditor’s report says California’s utilities haven’t done enough to reduce the threat of wildfires

 A panoramic view of the Holy Fire near Lake Elsinore in August 2018.
Kevin Key
Flickr / Creative Commons
A panoramic view of the Holy Fire near Lake Elsinore in August 2018.

The report to the California Legislature found that the new Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety approved utility companies' wildfire prevention plans even when they were "seriously deficient."

Included were plans by Pacific Gas & Electric, California's largest utility, which was held responsible for sparking the state's deadliest wildfire, the Camp Fire that killed 85 people in 2018.

While power companies are working to make their equipment more fire-resistant, neither the energy office nor the Public Utilities Commission, or P-U-C, has done enough to ensure that the companies prioritized upgrades where they are most needed -- in high fire-risk areas, according to the 91-page report.

Since 2015, power lines have caused six of California's 20 most-destructive wildfires, according to the report. Uninsulated lines and older transformers and other equipment are dangerous during high winds, when falling trees or flying debris can strike them and spark flames.