CPUC Fire Safety Rulemaking (R.15-05-006) & Fire Maps

In October 2007, devastating wildfires driven by strong Santa Ana winds burned hundreds of square miles in Southern California.  Several of the worst wildfires were reportedly ignited by overhead utility power lines and aerial communication facilities in close proximity to power lines.  In response to these wildfires, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) initiated Rulemaking 08-11-005 to consider and adopt regulations to protect the public from potential fire hazards associated with overhead powerline facilities and nearby aerial communication facilities.

Starting in 2009, the CPUC issued several decisions in R.08-11-005 that together adopted dozens of new regulations.  Most of the new regulations consist of new or revised rules in General Order (GO) 95. Several of the new regulations rely on maps that designate areas where there is an elevated hazard for powerline fires to occur and spread rapidly (fire-threat maps).  These regulations include:

  • GO 95, Rule 18A, which requires electric utilities and communication infrastructure providers (CIPs) to place a high priority on the correction of significant fire hazards in high fire-threat areas of Southern California.
  • GO 95, Rules 31.2, 80.1A, and 90.1B, which set the minimum frequency for inspections of aerial communication facilities located in close proximity to power lines in high fire-threat areas throughout California.
  • GO 95, Rule 35, Table 1, Case 14, which requires increased radial clearances between bare-line conductors and vegetation in high fire-threat areas of Southern California.
  • GO 95, Appendix E, which authorizes increased time-of-trim clearances between bare-line conductors and vegetation in high fire-threat areas of Southern California.
  • GO 165, Appendix A, Table 1, which requires more frequent patrol inspections of overhead powerline facilities in rural, high fire-threat areas of Southern California.
  • GO 166, Standard 1.E., which requires each electric utility in Southern California to develop and submit a plan to reduce the risk of fire ignitions by overhead facilities in high fire-threat areas during extreme fire-weather events. Electric utilities in Northern California must also develop and submit a plan if they have overhead facilities in high fire-threat areas that are subject to extreme fire-weather events. 

High Fire-Threat Maps

Interim Maps

The regulations identified above require a map to designate "high fire-threat areas" where these regulations apply.  There are now three surrogate fire-threat maps that together are called the "Interim Fire-Threat Maps."  The three Interim Fire-Threat Maps are:

  1.  A wildland fire-threat map prepared by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's (CAL FIRE) as part of its Fire Resource and Assessment Program (FRAP).  This map is often referred to as the "FRAP Map."
  2. A modified FRAP Map developed by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) for its own service territory.  This is sometimes referred to as the “SDG&E fire-threat map.”
  3. A map developed by communications utilities (see page 262 of D.12-01-032) to identify areas where there is an increased risk for utility-associated wildfires.  This map is oftentimes referred to as the "Reax Map."

Currently, the Reax Map is used to designate high fire-threat areas in Northern California where the previously identified regulations apply.  With the exception of SDG&E's service territory, the FRAP Map is used to identify high fire-threat areas in Southern California where the previously identified regulations apply.  The SDG&E fire-threat map is used for SDG&E's service territory.  

 

Fire Maps 1 & 2

In 2012, the CPUC ordered the development of a map that is designed specifically for the purpose of identifying areas where there is an increased risk for utility associated wildfires.  The development of the CPUC -sponsored fire-threat map started in R.08-11-005 and continues in R.15-05-006

The development of the CPUC's fire-threat map was bifurcated into Fire Map 1 (FM 1) followed by Fire Map 2.  FM 1 is a statewide map that depicts areas of California where there is an elevated hazard for the ignition and rapid spread of powerline fires due to strong winds, abundant dry vegetation, and other environmental conditions.  These are the environmental conditions associated with the catastrophic powerline fires that burned 334 square miles of Southern California in October 2007.  FM 1 was developed by CAL FIRE and adopted by the CPUC in Decision 16-05-036. FM 1 is attached to the end of D.16-05-036.

FM 1 served as the foundation for the development of Fire Map 2 (FM 2), which is currently in progress.  FM 2 will delineate the boundaries of a new High Fire-Threat District where utility infrastructure and operations will be subject to stricter fire‑safety regulations.  Importantly, the development of FM 2 will (1) incorporate fire hazards associated with historical powerline wildfires besides the October 2007 fires in Southern California (e.g., the Butte Fire that burned 71,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras Counties in September 2015), and (2) rank fire-threat areas based on the risks that utility-associated wildfires pose to people and property. 

In D.17-01-009, as modified by D.17-06-024, the CPUC adopted a work plan for the development and adoption of FM 2.  Pursuant to these decisions, FM 2 will be a composite of two maps:  

  1. Tier 1 High Hazard Zones (HHZs) on the U.S. Forest Service-CAL FIRE joint map of Tree Mortality HHZs.  This is an off-the-shelf map.  Tier 1 HHZs are zones in direct proximity to communities, roads, and utility lines, and are a direct threat to public safety.
  2. Tier 2 and Tier 3 fire-threat areas on the CPUC Fire-Threat Map (CPUC Fire-Threat Map).  This map is currently in an advance stage of development, as described in more detail below.  Tier 2 fire-threat areas are areas where there is an elevated risk (including likelihood and potential impacts on people and property) from utility associated wildfires.  Tier 3 fire-threat areas are areas where there is an extreme risk (including likelihood and potential impacts on people and property) from utility associated wildfires.  Tier 2 and Tier 3 fire -threat areas may overlap Tier 1 Zones.

Primary responsibility for the development of the CPUC Fire-Threat Map was delegated to a group of utility mapping experts known as the Peer Development Panel (PDP), with oversight from a team of independent experts known as the Independent Review Team (IRT).  The members of the IRT were selected by CAL FIRE and the work of the IRT is overseen by CAL FIRE.  The development of CPUC Fire-Threat Map includes input from many stakeholders, including investor-owned and publicly owned electric utilities, communications infrastructure providers, and local public safety agencies. 

The PDP served a draft statewide CPUC Fire-Threat Map on July 31, 2017, which is now being reviewed by the IRT.  On October 2 and October 5, 2017, the PDP filed an Initial CPUC Fire-Threat Map that reflects the results of the IRT's review through September 25, 2017.  The following table summarizes the geographic area covered by the Initial CPUC Fire-Threat Map:

Geographic Area Covered by the Initial CPUC Fire-Threat Map

Square Miles

Region

Tier 2

Elevated

Tier 3

Extreme

Tier 2 + Tier 3

Southern California

6,542

5,616

12,158

Northern California

59,415

3,183

62,598

Total for Tier

65,957

8,799

74,756

 

Percent of California Land Area

Region

Tier 2

Elevated

Tier 3

Extreme

Tier 2 + Tier 3

Southern California

14.3%

12.2%

26.5%

Northern California

52.8%

2.8%

55.6%

Total for Tier

41.7%

5.5%

47.2%


The final IRT-approved CPUC Fire-Threat Map was filed on November 17, 2017.  Interested parties will have an opportunity to submit alternate maps, written comments on the IRT-approved map and alternate maps (if any), and motions for Evidentiary Hearings.  It is anticipated that a final CPUC Fire-Threat Map will be approved and adopted in the first quarter of 2018.  The adopted CPUC Fire-Threat Map, together with the map of Tier 1 HHZs on the USFS-CAL FIRE joint map tree mortality HHZs, will comprise the High Fire-threat District Map where stricter fire-safety regulations apply. See more information under Fire Safety Regulations below.

 

Fire Safety Regulations

The scope of R.15-05-006 includes the identification, evaluation, and adoption of additional fire-safety regulations for the High Fire-threat District.  To this end, a series of public workshops were held by group known as the Fire Safety Technical Panel (FSTP) chaired by the CPUC's Safety and Enforcement Division and Southern California Edison Company.  On July 10, 2017, the FSTP filed a Workshop Report that contains 23 proposed fire safety regulations and eight alternatives.  Interested parties filed comments on July 31, 2017, and reply comments on August 11, 2017.  A Proposed Decision regarding the proposed fire-safety regulations was issued on Nov. 8, 2017, for comment and presented to the CPUC for a vote by the end of 2017. 

  • Nov. 17, 2017: Draft Final Fire-Threat Map: Nov. 17, 2017: Draft Final Fire-Threat Map of the Independent Review Team (IRT) led by CAL FIRE; next steps:  Parties can file alternative fire-threat maps on Nov. 21, 2017.  Comments and reply comments regarding the IRT-approved map and alternatives, if any, are due on Nov. 29 and Dec. 8, 2017, respectively.  Motions for Evidentiary Hearings and responses to the motions, if any, are due on Dec. 8 and 15, 2017, respectively. NOTE: The map of High Fire-Threat District will consist of two maps:  1) the CPUC Fire-Threat Map, and 2) the CAL FIRE - U.S. Forest Service Map of Tree Mortality High Hazard Zones. This map is the first map and subject to the comment schedule above.
  • Interim draft fire-threat map. The draft of the final map will be filed on Nov. 17, 2017. The final map may have changes relative to the attached draft map. 
  • Subscribe to proceeding documents
  • Proceeding Docket Card
  • Read our May 26, 2016, press release about Fire Map 1
  • Oct. 2017 Fires

More Information

Regulations

Utility Resources

 

Prior Fire and Utility Pole News

 
 



Immigration Guide