Wildfire season: SoCal Edison hires fire scientist to help decide when to shut off power

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- With wildfire season ready to rage, power companies are again preparing for the worst.

And that now includes watching the weather for dangerous fire conditions.

Southern California Edison now has its first-ever fire scientist.

Tom Rolinski's duties will include helping the utility decide when to turn off the power when the fire danger climbs.

"We're looking at winds, wind speeds, how dry the atmosphere is, and in very fine granularity across our service territory," Rolinski said.

Power lines knocked down in strong winds have been linked to some of the worst fires in the state's history.

The destructive and deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California, for example, has been blamed on PG&E power equipment.

The utility recently agreed to pay $1 billion to settle claims involving several fires in that region.

When the fire danger climbs Rolinski and others help make the call to turn off the power..

"We have five meteorologists that are collecting all this information and are looking at areas where we may have to shut the power off."

RELATED: What were some of California's worst wildfires and how were they started?

Turning off the power is not done lightly because for some people electricity is a vital lifeline.

Rolinski and his staff will be relying on weather stations and cameras across their coverage area to help with their decision.

"The good thing is that the general public can look at those images that are coming from those cameras. Anybody can view those images online. And they can also view the data that's coming from these weather stations behind me."
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.