City controller calls on LADWP to improve wildfire prevention efforts

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The city controller says that the system operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power poses a potential risk of wildfires.

The report titled "It Only Takes a Spark: Enhancing LADWP's Wildfire Prevention Strategy," highlights challenges and concerns about the growing number of losses caused by lines operated by other utilities.

The report was also made available for mobile devices.

"Our local public utility can to do more to prevent these catastrophic events, which will improve the safety and reliability of the power system as a whole," says City Controller Ron Galperin.

The report highlights a current backlog of more than 1,000 DWP fire safety maintenance orders.

The report stated that 15% of the DWP's service territory is within fire zones that are mapped by the California Public Utilities Commission, and most of its utility poles are wooden.

LADWP says that inaccurate figures were sent to the city controller and that work orders comprise a list, not a backlog.

"There are currently about 30 poles that are in higher fire areas that are slated for replacement. That will take about six months work. This is part of ongoing work we do on a regular basis" says DWP General Manager Martin Adams.

Both the controller and DWP acknowledge a need for more trained engineers to conduct inspections. Currently there is a nationwide shortage and other utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric face monumental tasks to rebuild in areas devastated by wildfires.

DWP reports that it replaced more than 3,700 power poles, over 10,000 crossarms and about 1,200 transformers in 2018, all of which exceeded its goals for the year.

The controller urges DWP to further prioritize its needs and create a task force with the Los Angeles Fire Department to examine locations where vegetation could pose a hazard. The suspected source of the Getty Fire is a branch that flew into power lines.

"When you don't address these things it can turn into a very expensive proposition later one and a tragic one," says Galperin.
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