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As Investigators Attempt To Determine The Cause Of The Saddleridge Fire, PG&E Continues To Face Backlash For Outages




Firefighters work on a house fire during the Saddleridge Fire in the early morning hours on October 11, 2019 in Porter Ranch, California.
Firefighters work on a house fire during the Saddleridge Fire in the early morning hours on October 11, 2019 in Porter Ranch, California.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

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The cause of last week’s fast-moving Saddle Ridge fire is under investigation. It started under a Southern California Edison transmission line, but investigators are trying to determine how.

The stakes are high not just for Edison and its potential financial liability, but for residents concerned about the threshold for precautionary outages.

In Northern California, PG&E’s aggressive approach to shutoffs is being roundly criticized by Governor Newsom and the state Public Utilities Commission. They’re critical of how long the outages lasted, the way residents were informed, and how poorly the company’s website functioned. 

We get the latest. Plus, how does the infrastructure of California’s electric grid affect wildfires and utilities’ ability to maintain or shut off power in dangerous conditions? How does a fire investigation work? And how does SoCal Edison’s situation compare with PG&E’s?

We invited Southern California Edison and the California Public Utilities Commission to join us for this discussion but neither was able to make someone available for us.

Guests:

Sharon McNary, infrastructure correspondent at KPCC

Tom Pierce, a fire investigator with Pierce Fire Investigations based in Bakersfield. He has been involved in fire service since 1974, and has worked with the National Fire Academy, the  California State Fire Marshal's Office, and many other law enforcement organizations

Nicholas Abi-Samra, professor of electrical engineering at UC San Diego; he is president of Electric Power & Energy Consulting (EPEC), an independent consulting firm that works with the electric utility industry;  he is the author of the book, “Power Grid Resiliency for Adverse Conditions” (Artech, 2017)