San Diego County fire chiefs honor power shut-off plan

The San Diego county Fire Chiefs Association gave an award last week to San Diego Gas and Electric. Their Maltese Cross was given to the company’s President, Michael Niggli and his predecessor Debra Reed, for their spirit of fire protection.

The award was given, at least in part, for SDG&E’s proposal to shut off the electricity to large areas of the county (see map below) when the fire danger was high. Their plan was assailed by many residents and applauded by some firefighters, but it was rejected by the Public Utilities Commission.

In addition to trying to prevent fires (and save money for the company) SDG&E has a long history of starting fires. For a recent example, as we reported on April 23:

San Diego Gas and Electric Company has agreed to pay the state of California $14.8 million over three fires in 2007 that were caused by their power lines. Investigators determined that shoddy maintenance of the lines led to arcing, which started the Witch Creek, Guejito, and Rice Canyon fires that burned through the communities of Ramona, Fallbrook, Rancho Bernardo, Poway, and Rancho Santa Fe in October and November of 2007. The fires destroyed more than 1,300 homes, killed two people, and caused massive evacuations.

The Commission accused SDG&E of obstructing their investigation of the cause of the fires. According to the San Diego Union, in the settlement the company admitted that it didn’t give investigators the information they asked for and didn’t let its workers talk to the investigators, as required by law.

Areas in which power would have been shut off.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.