Wildfire Safety

 Wildfire Safety and Public Safety Power Shutoffs

In recent years, wildfires have intensified in California, and utilities are taking action to reduce fire risks related to utility infrastructure. Certain conditions such as high wind, low humidity, dry vegetation, and Red Flag Warnings declared by the National Weather Service can pose an increased risk of wildfire when paired with extreme weather events. The state of California is working with utilities statewide to reduce wildfire incidents, including through implementation of public safety power shutoff programs. Learn more about the City's actions in our staff report to the Utilities Advisory Commission. 

Make sure you know what to do in the event of a wildfire and stay prepared by learning more here.

PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff Program

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is communicating plans to de-energize its electric transmission lines passing through high-fire threat areas when conditions create a high risk for fire. While PG&E does not directly serve electricity to City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) customers, the City intakes electricity from PG&E’s transmission system, so outages could affect CPAU. Read about PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shut-off program.

Staff are working through partner agencies such as the Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) to establish clear communication protocols between PG&E and customers when PG&E anticipates shutting down power to a major transmission line. 

Potential Power Outages in Palo Alto

Even though Palo Alto has its own small electric generation sources, there is a possibility of outages within the City if PG&E shuts off power to a major transmission line serving our area. If there is a statewide incident that impacts the transmission network feeding Palo Alto, this could result in rolling blackouts. Staff are evaluating available resources to supply temporary power to critical facilities in the event of a large power outage.

CPAU cannot guarantee continuous power for any given length of time if there is a large power outage, so it is important for residents and businesses to be prepared. Large power outages could potentially last for several or more days. Prepare for emergencies and power outages through utilizing resources at www.cityofpaloalto.org/preparedness or contact us to request a copy of our Utilities Safety and Emergency Preparedness brochure

Local Wildfire Conditions and City Actions

The Foothills areas is at the greatest risk of wildfire in Palo Alto, and City staff continually monitor conditions very closely. If PG&E makes a decision to shut off power lines west of highway 280, CPAU may need to shut off power locally to customers in the Foothills. CPAU will coordinate to make local operational decisions based on the safety and best interests of our community members and our utility’s infrastructure.

Wildfire Mitigation and Prevention

The City is already implementing measures related to electric system operation and vegetation management to reduce the risk of fires caused by overhead electric lines. CPAU is also leading the development of a Utilities Wildfire Mitigation Plan that outlines the processes and activities undertaken by CPAU and other City departments to mitigate the threat of wildfires associated with overhead electric lines and associated equipment owned and operated by CPAU. This Plan will be presented to City Council for approval by the end of 2019.

Ongoing local wildfire prevention methods include increased vegetation management and electric line inspections, prioritized maintenance, and additional staff training. CPAU works with the Urban Forestry division to ensure that trees are trimmed and inspected annually to prevent contact with electric lines as an ignition source of fires. Future activities include rebuilding, replacing and rerouting overhead lines and poles, refining construction practices, improving communication systems, and coordinating activities with PG&E.

Stay Informed and Prepared

Connect with us or review our resources to learn more about utility infrastructure safety, wildfire prevention, emergency preparation and disaster response. We encourage residents and businesses to prepare themselves at the following sites: 

cityofpaloalto.org/preparedness

cityofpaloalto.org/safeutility

It is also a wise idea to check our cityofpaloalto.org/stayinformed webpage to ensure you are signed up to receive emergency notifications from the City during any potential emergency situations.

In the event of an emergency, dial 9-1-1.

For non-emergency public safety issues, call (650) 329-2413.

Contact Utilities at UtilitiesCommunications@cityofpaloalto.org or (650) 329-2417.