Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan Introduces Bill Increasing Collaboration Between Local Fire Districts and Electrical Utilities to Enhance Fire Protection

For immediate release:

AB 529 would require that electrical utilities like PG&E give 48 hours’ notice to local fire districts when conducting potentially dangerous maintenance in high fire-risk areas   

Sacramento, CA – Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), in partnership with the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District's Chief Paige Meyer, Moraga-Orinda Fire District Chief Dave Winnacker, and Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) introduced AB 529 which will require that local Fire Districts are alerted of any fire safety, prevention, or mitigation services conducted by electrical utility companies like PG&E, in high fire-risk areas.

The bill builds on local ordinances in Assembly District 16 in San Ramon and Orinda, which had set notification requirements for electrical utilities in order to ensure clear communication, so that a local fire district is prepared and on alert when the chance of a fire is increased in high fire-risk areas.  

“The bill being introduced by Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan is a big step in the right direction,” stated San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District Chief Paige Mayer.  “Advance notice of when, where and what PG&E will be doing in high fire risk areas allows fire agencies the opportunity to assess the area in advance, pre-position assets if warranted, and provide feedback to PG&E in advance about local conditions.  The enhanced level of communication between the big utilities and local fire agencies makes a difference in keeping communities safe throughout the state,” Chief Meyer concluded.

The year 2020 was California’s worst fire season in modern history. By the end of the year, over 10,000 wildfires had burned over 4.2 million acres of land in California. More than 4 percent of all land in the state was burned by wildfires. The August “Complex Fire” was the first ever “Gigafire” that the state has seen, burning over 1 million acres and crossing seven counties.  Last year alone, 33 people lost their lives to deadly wildfires. This bill seeks to aid in preventing any fire from becoming the next “big one” and any further destruction of property or loss of life, by ensuring that local fire districts are prepared and ready to respond if a fire is inadvertently started due to maintenance work.

“We are incredibly grateful for all the work that our local fire districts do to keep our communities safe, we hope that this bill will be another tool in their arsenal to fight potentially deadly fires,” said Bauer-Kahan. “Due to climate change, California’s fire season has been longer and more intense in recent years. With proper notification, we can shave off precious time for fire response. By strengthening communication and awareness, we all win,” finished Bauer-Kahan.

“The Moraga-Orinda Fire District is following San Ramon Valley Fire District’s lead in promoting better communication and cooperation between PG&E and local fire agencies.  The bill being introduced by Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan goes a long way towards accomplishing this goal and will protect our communities statewide,” said Moraga-Orinda Fire District Chief Dave Winnacker.

 "The 2020 wildfires burned more than four percent of all land in the state and resulted in lost lives, homes, and fragile natural landscapes. The road to recovery from last year’s fire season will be long and difficult, but part of this recovery is making sure we give enhanced tools and resources to our local fire districts,” said Senator Glazer.  

An essential element of this bill is that it does not prevent a utility from conducting emergency maintenance work at any point. In the case of an emergency, the utility will be required to report within 72 hours the work that was completed and if any incidents that arose from that work.