By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Shane Massoud, the government relations manager for Southern California Edison, outlined the utility’s efforts to mitigate wildfire risk to the mountain communities at the Nov. 2 meeting of the Lake Arrowhead Municipal Advisory Council.
They are making progress, he reported on installed covered conductor (also known as insulated wire). Since 2021, they have installed more than 440 miles of the covered conductor, about half of what needs to be done. “It has taken us 3-1/2 years to get to this point,” Massoud said, adding they have installed 150 miles a year on average.
The purpose of this covered conductor is to significantly reduce the chances of the power lines arcing or sparking during wind events or if branches touch the wires.
They are adding fast-acting fuses to interrupt electrical current quickly, Massoud said. These fuses will isolate and shut down power. They are also installing sectionalizing devices so, if there’s a fallen line, they will sectionalize a power outage rather than affecting the entire circuit.
SCE’s vegetation control and tree management continue. They are also installing wildfire cameras on existing infrastructure as well as installing fiberglass composite poles and crossarms.
“We are ready to go this winter,” Massoud reported. “We are ready for the unexpected.” During the winter, SCE will hold weekly weather calls. “As we identify events, we will do the necessary prep work,” he said. “We want to make sure there is power throughout the community.”
SCE’s troublemen are the first responders out in the field. They identify what is happening, generate a work order, immediately respond and bring in the necessary equipment to make repairs. They have three Polarises with tracks so they can access remote areas and will have Sno-Cats on hand.
The plan, Massoud said, is to preemptively stage materials and establish rotating 24/7 shifts so there will always be personnel on the mountain. “We have our own incident management team that will be activated during a storm event,” he said, adding they were activated during the recent wind event.
Massoud urged everyone to log into their SCE accounts to make sure their contact information is up to date.
Council member Peter Venturini told Massoud he wanted to congratulate SCE on their proactive approach and the steps they are taking to minimize wildfire risk. “What comes along with that is much more reliable power,” Venturini said.
“A lot of us have noticed having a lot less power outages,” Scott Rindenow told Massoud. “Everyone I’ve spoken to has said they didn’t lose power during the snowstorms.” He also praised SCE for the communications they have been sending out about possible PSPS during the wind event and then the notice that there was no longer a need to shut off power.
“This is 100 percent better than not being told anything, which is what happened in the past,” Rindenow said.
Lewis Murray, reporting for Supervisor Dawn Rowe, noted there had recently been a winter coordination meeting among first responders and agencies on the mountain. All five fire departments were there, as well as the sheriff’s department, CHP, Caltrans, county roads and Massoud, representing SCE.
“Everyone talked about what they have done since last year,” Murray said. “It was great to see the coordination we have up here.”
Murray also clarified the new state law (SB1383) that mandates food waste and green waste can no longer go into landfills. The food waste portion does not affect mountain residents, he said, although it might in the future.
Green waste – pine needles, oak leaves, branches – must be sent to specific facilities to be processed. The county has partnered with Burrtec for the pickup of this waste. Under a pilot program, they will come out once a month for a fee to pick up green waste if the homeowner is unable to take it to a dropoff site – schools, Heaps Peak and Mountain Disposal in Crestline.