Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced it is expanding its network of weather stations and high-definition cameras to improve its ability to predict and respond to extreme wildfire danger, as part of its Community Wildfire Safety Program (CWSP). By the end of 2019, PG&E plans to have at least 600 weather stations and 100 high-definition cameras in high fire-threat areas they say.
“These new installations are one of the many additional precautionary measures the company is implementing following the 2017 and 2018 wildfires to further reduce wildfire risks,” company officials said.
“The enhanced meteorological data we are receiving from these weather stations is bolstering our ability to forecast high fire-risk weather conditions with further granularity so that we can take swift action to protect public safety,” PG&E CWSP Vice President Sumeet Singh said. “Personnel at PG&E’s 24/7 Wildfire Safety Operations Center will use these weather stations and cameras to better monitor wildfire risks and coordinate prevention and response efforts, and the data is shared publicly and with agencies such as CAL FIRE.”
Solano is among the counties that have already received weather stations, officials said. Others include Alameda, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne and Yuba.
In Solano County, there is a weather station on Hog Ranch Road, near American Canyon, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said.
A couple more PG&E cameras have been installed in the North Bay, bringing the total number to nine —two in Napa County and seven in Marin County, she said.
“You can see them up at www.alertwildfire.org,” Contreras said. “Just click on ‘North Bay.’”
There are some 13 weather stations in Marin County and 24 in Napa County. They can be seen at https://mesowest.utah.edu/cgi-bin/droman/stn_mnet.cgi?mnet=227, she said.
Building on the 200 weather stations it installed in 2018, PG&E has added another 200 weather stations in 2019 to capture localized, real-time data related to temperature, wind speeds and humidity levels, officials said. Some 400 new weather stations are scheduled to be installed this year, prioritized in areas at elevated and extreme risk for wildfires, based on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) High Fire-Threat District Map.
To help protect customers and communities during extreme weather events, electric power may be shut off for public safety in an effort to prevent a wildfire. This is called a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). PG&E’s meteorologists will feed data from these new stations to the company’s Wildfire Safety Operations Center team, where it can be utilized to help inform actions such as PSPS.
Before any such shut-offs, PG&E will carefully review a combination of criteria including predictions of strong winds and very low humidity levels; additional weather stations will assist PG&E’s Meteorology team to better predict conditions specific to local geographic areas, officials said. Data collected by the weather stations is available to state and local agencies and the public through online sources like the National Weather Service and MesoWest.
PG&E has installed 25 of the 100 high-definition cameras planned for this year. The company has now installed 34 HD cameras since 2018, with a goal of installing 600 new cameras by 2022 as part of the ALERTWildfire Camera Network. The high-definition, pan-tilt-zoom cameras allow firefighters, first responders and companies like PG&E to confirm and monitor potential wildfires.
Images from the ALERTWildfire system are viewable online at www.alertwildfire.org.
More information can be found at pge.com/wildfiresafety.