SDG&E expects to implement power shut-off plan during high fire danger

San Diego Gas and Electric Company said yesterday they will implement their preemptive power shut-off plan during periods of high fire danger in San Diego County. They made their announcement after the California Public Utilities Commission said they would not be able to rule on SDG&E’s plan before the Santa Ana wind season starts in September.

SDG&E proposed their plan in October after investigators blamed their power lines for starting three massive wildfires in 2007. If implemented, electricity for up to 150,000 people could be shut off.

According to their plan, in order to shut off electricty all of the following criteria would have to be met :

  • a red-flag warning from the National Weather Service;
  • moisture at or below 10 percent in twigs and 75 percent or less in live plants;
  • relative humidity at or below 20 percent; and
  • sustained winds over 29 mph, or gusts above 47 mph accompanied by sustained winds over 24 mph.

After having worked as a wildland firefighter in San Diego County for 16 years, I am estimating that these conditions would be met at least once or twice each year between September and November.

Firefighting agencies have not taken a stand on the proposal, but it is opposed by local government officials, water districts, schools, disability advocates, and cable and telephone companies.

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