Fire Zone Projects
California fire risk zones have both extensive and immediate need for resilient infrastructure. That infrastructure is needed to help:
1) reduce likelihood, spread and extent of fire damage;
2) provide adequate warning, response and emergency egress systems;
3) provide better ability to fight fires and protect critical resources;
4) minimize the economic impact of preventative measures taken by PGE and other utilities such as planned power outages.
Most communities would like to mitigate as many risks as quickly as possible, but virtually no community has the financial resources necessary to act now. Most can pay for these measures over 10-40 years, but if the fire comes this year or next, the protective measures need to be taken sooner than they can be paid for.
That is the biggest problem most California communities face. Of course, each community will also need to develop consensus and eliminate development and NIMBY risk around the risk reduction measures it would like to take. But the ability to address these issues through local choice is far preferable to having the State attempt to come up with one size fits all solutions.
Each community under this program can decide:
• Is the plan to hold off a fire until help can arrive (hours) or to actually not need outside help (for days or weeks)?
• Are we willing to take the necessary steps to really prevent wildfire from wiping out our community or are we merely trying to create measures that more effectively allow us to address smaller fires before they become conflagrations?
• Do we have in place ‘always on’ communications systems so that when PG&E shuts off the power we don’t also lose power to cell phone towers, Internet, hospitals, police and fire stations?
• Do we want to invest in additional water storage capabilities to assist in firefighting?
• Do we want to protect only first responders or fragile/at risk populations like nursing homes or hospitals (or all of the above) and if so for long enough to move them to safety or to not require movement? To protect residences and businesses?
• Do we want to keep businesses open for a power outage that lasts a couple hours, a couple days or to be detachable and able to operate disconnected from the transmission grid indefinitely?
Resilient infrastructure projects could include:
• Solar powered microgrid with battery storage that can be islanded from the transmission grid– the scale and scope depend on how much risk is to be mitigated.
• Distributed water storage (for collecting rainwater in the winter) with solar powered pumping capability to allow firefighting – scale and scope depend on what you want to protect (first responders, cell towers, nursing homes, residences, and for how long?)
• Solar with battery storage for cellular and other communications infrastructure during power outages
• EV charging network (expands storage capacity)
• Upgraded broadband access (important not only for fire, but relevant in current pandemic)
• Undergrounding local utility lines and bordering transmission lines
• Aggressive brush and tree control
• Distributed agriculture and hardened localized food supply chains to provide sustainable food sources during periods of isolation