2014-2016 Fire Incident Data Collection

In Decision 14-02-015, the CPUC adopted a Fire Incident Data Collection Plan that requires certain investor-owned electric utilities to collect and annually report certain information that would be useful in identifying operational and/or environmental trends relevant to fire-related events.  The purpose of this reporting is to improve regulations and internal utility standards to reduce the likelihood of fires.  Reporting requirements are limited to reportable fire events that meet the following criteria:

  • A self-propagating fire of material other than electrical and/or communication facilities,
  • The resulting fire traveled greater than one linear meter from the ignition point, and
  • The utility has knowledge that the fire occurred

To date, the CPUC has received reports for 2014 through 2016.

The Safety and Enforcement Division (SED) of the CPUC received and reviewed these reports. SED analysis of raw data is provided on the webpage. SED is currently working with CAL FIRE to partner on matters pertaining to fires and utility infrastructure, including analyzing information provided by utilities. SED is also in the process of implementing Senate Bill (SB) 1028 (Hill), which requires utilities to annually submit wildfire mitigation plans and for the CPUC staff to review those plans. SED is currently working through the hiring process to fill the positions required in order to fully implement SB 1028. Further review and analysis of utility fire incident data is within the responsibility of specialists to be hired to implement SB 1028. In addition, the CPUC has several ongoing proceedings that pertain to fire safety, including: Fire Safety Rulemaking (R. 15-05-006), Pole Management OIR/OII (R.17-06-028/I.17-06-027) and Petition to Amend or Repeal General Order (GO) 95, Rule 18 (R. 16-12-001). The data provided by utilities in the fire incident reports may be used in variety of ways by the CPUC and the purpose of this document is to provide a summary of the data submitted to date. 

Summary of Fire Incidents Reported by Utility 2014-2016

From 2014-2016, a total of 1,384 individual fire incidents have been reported by investor-owned electric utilities.  There are a multitude of factors that impact these total numbers, including but not limited to:

  • The size of each utility's service territory
  • Topography and weather conditions in each utility's service territory
  • Percentage of overhead versus underground lines in each utility's service territory 
  • Abundance of vegetation in close proximity to overhead lines in each utility's service territory

As illustrated in Figures 1, 2, and 3, a vast majority of the reported fire incidents are relatively small in size.  More than 75 percent of the reported fire incidents are less than 0.25 acres, and more than 90 percent are less than 10 acres.  Many of these fires may involve a single customer-owned facility (e.g., meter), structure, or tree. 

The CPUC has requirements for electric utilities to report certain incidents within 24 hours of occurrence, as outlined in Resolution E-4184. The criteria of reporting individual incidents as they occur includes: (1) a fatality or injury requiring overnight hospitalization, (2) damage to property of the utility or others in excess of $50,000, (3) significant media coverage and/or (4) a major outage to at least 10% of the utility's entire service territory that is experienced at a single point in time. These individually reported incidents are reviewed and investigated by SED in accordance with the investigation criteria, which is summarized in SED's annual plan.  Majority of fire incidents reported in the utility annual fire incident reports discussed here often do not meet the CPUC's criteria for individual incident reporting and the CPUC does not typically conduct specific investigations of incidents that do not meet the criteria outlined in Resolution E-4184. 

Figure 1 shows the total number of fire incidents reported by utilities for 2014 per Decision 14-02-015.  PG&E and SCE reported fire incidents that occurred from June through December in 2014. SDG&E reported fire incidents for the 2014 calendar year.  Figure 2 and Figure 3 contain fire incident data for the entire calendar year.


 Figure 1 - 2014 Total Fire Incidents Reported by Fire Size

 Figure 2 - 2015 Total Fire Incidents Reported by Fire Size

Figure 3 - 2016 Total Fire Incidents Reported by Fire Size

Figure 4 presents the total number of fire incidents reported. PG&E's service territory spans approximately 70,000 square miles, SCE's service territory spans approximately 50,000 square miles, and SDG&E's service territory spans approximately 4,100 square miles. Additionally, 81.2 percent of PG&E's electric transmission and distribution system is comprised of overhead lines, versus 63.3 percent and 44.6 percent for SCE and SDG&E, respectively. 

 Figure 4 - Total Number of Fire Incidents Reported by IOUs

*PG&E and SCE 2014 fire incident numbers represent incidents that occurred from June through December of 2014.

 

Another data field required by the Plan is the suspected cause of ignition.  Figure 5 shows the suspected cause of ignition totals for each year, as reported by PG&E.

Figure 5 - PG&E Fire Incidents by Suspected Ignition Cause

*2014 fire incident numbers represent incidents that occurred from June through December.

 

As illustrated, contact from objects and equipment/facility failures are by far the leading causes of PG&E's fire incidents. 

Figures 6 and 7 break down the types of objects identified by PG&E for fire incidents where the suspected cause of ignition was contact from an object. (2014 numbers in Figures 6 through 9 are based on data submitted by PG&E for the period June through December.)

 Figure 6 - Total PG&E Fires Suspected to be Ignited from Object Contact - Listed by Object Type


 Figure 7 - Percentage of PG&E Fires Suspected to be Ignited from object contact - 3 yr avg

 

Vegetation contact represents, on average, more than 50 percent of PG&E's fire incidents suspected to be ignited as a result of contact with an object.  Given that contact from objects is by far the leading cause of PG&E fire incidents, the fact that on average more than 50 percent of these fires result from contact with vegetation clearly highlights the significance and importance of effective vegetation management practices in PG&E's service territory.   The importance of effective vegetation management practices is even more critical when coupled with the fact that more than 80 percent of PG&E's electric transmission and distribution system is comprised of overhead lines, which can potentially be exposed to damage and failure from vegetation contact that may lead to a potential ignition source.

Additionally, equipment/facility failure is the second leading cause of PG&E fire incidents.  Figures 8 and 9 show a breakdown of the types of equipment/facilities identified by PG&E for fire incidents where the suspected cause of ignition was equipment failure.  

 

 Figure 8 - Total PG&E Fires Suspected to be ignited from equip failure - list by equip type


Figure 9 - Percent of PG&E Fires suspect to be ignited by equip failure - 3 yr avg

 

The data collected and presented in accordance with the Plan is purposefully simplified.  There is much nuance to the information provided in the broad categories and limited entries in the report template.  For example, an assessment or statement regarding vegetation contact or vegetation management issues is incomplete without the context of weather conditions present at the time of the incident. 

SED reviews utility vegetation management and equipment maintenance practices as part of the audit program. SED audits can be found here: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/General.aspx?id=2065

Reports

 

Return to the October 2017 fire page.

 




 

Immigration Guide