Utility Wildfire Risk Mitigation  

wildfire risk managementThe world is seeing and experiencing unprecedented wildfire seasons due to changes in environment and previous land management practices. Forest Management Services, along with utility companies, are adapting to the change and are continuing to improve wildfire management practices in the hopes of making wildfires less destructive.

Fire operations have come a long way since the days of combatting wildfires with fewer aerial resources and enabling technologies. Today, there are early warning systems based on precise environmental monitoring and rapid communications. These systems have software that provide automated alerts when certain data points from a sensor reach a threshold; these alerts can then be used by field operations, engineering, supervisory management, including executive teams to make critical decisions at critical times.

New wildfire technology has been tried, tested and proven with progressive Wildfire Management agencies such as CalFIRE and the British Columbia Wildfire Service, over many years of severe wildfire seasons. The predictive weather services, fuels (vegetation) management, wildfire behavior forecasting, and automated camera monitoring technology is now available and it’s encouraging to see it becoming more readily adapted by the fire management agencies and the power utility sector.

Some of the larger IOUs in California have large areas of interest and much of it is located smack dab inside a wildfire ecosystem with a prevalent fire regime. In many cases, partly because of Senate Bill 901, they now have legislated requirements for Wildfire Mitigation Plans (WMP) and must adhere to a regulated process with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to report their progress on actions taken with their respective utility WMP.

Part of their Wildfire Mitigation Plan includes the immediate need to modernize their grid and most importantly, to take actions on their wildfire risk and keep everyone safe.

There are also other fire-prone US states, taking measures into their own hands, not by state law but as practices of prudence to implement wildfire weather monitoring and enhance their situational awareness in the field and throughout their operations. These important steps are contributing to the regional common operating picture to be aware of not only wildfire risk through  distribution/transmission lines adjacent to lands; but also to be cognizant that the impact of wildfire can be felt from ignitions both within and outside their areas of interest.

The wildfire issue is no doubt a very large, multi-layered challenge that continually needs to be investigated not only in regards to technology, but as well as embracing operational enhancements, cost savings and increased safety to bring about improvements. Also important, is investing in research regarding new products, services, technology and finding more ways to share the research through webinars, blogs, industry forums, conferences, etc. across utility organizations, government, labs, manufacturing, industry and academic institutions.

We all need to encourage and facilitate thought leadership and promote knowledge transfer with regards to improving resiliency against wildfires. As data has shown wildfires are increasing and we need to work together to reduce their impacts on lives and property.

Learn more on how FTS provides wildfire situational awareness or book a free consultation for help with your wildfire mitigation planning.

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