Coronavirus: SoCal Edison using tech to limit power outages, predict impact on wildfire season

With stay-at-home orders in place across California, officials say they are in contact with local emergency management to know where the most vulnerable customers are located.
As firefighters across California prepare for the upcoming fire season, Southern California Edison is looking at ways it can reduce planned power outages during the coronavirus pandemic.

During past fire seasons, power companies such as SoCal Edison have cut power in specific areas to prevent their lines from sparking fires during extremely dry and windy days.

To try and reduce the fire danger risk, last October thousands of businesses and homes across the region faced forced power outages during strong Santa Ana winds.

"I can tell you from last year most of our customers were not out power for more than 12 to 24 hours before we were able to get the power back up," said Don Daigler, director of business resiliency with SoCal Edison.

SoCal Edison officials say technology allows them to better determine where power may have to be shut off to try to prevent a spark from starting a fire.

With stay-at-home orders in place across the state, the utility says it is in contact with local emergency management to know where the most vulnerable customers are located.

"The goal here is to minimize the number of customers potentially impacted and reduce the time they're impacted for," Daigler added.

Meanwhile, California firefighters are bracing for the unique challenge of responding to a disaster while also trying to protect themselves from a pandemic.

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This fire season, firefighters in California will face a unique challenge: responding to a disaster while also protecting themselves from a pandemic. CalFire and other organizations say they'll incorporate social distancing to keep firefighters safe.

Fire scientists with SoCal Edison have been canvassing certain fire-prone areas, gathering plant samples to test the moisture content in anticipation of an active wildfire season.

SoCal Edison has installed over 600 weather stations, equipped with high-resolution cameras, as well as other state-of-the-art technology.

"We actually literally run millions of those imaginary fire simulations to determine then what areas would be most prone for a significant fire," said Tom Rolinski, a fire scientist with SoCal Edison.

Last year, the utility agreed to pay $360 million to settle lawsuits over the destructive and deadly Thomas and Woolsey fires sparked by its equipment.
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