• Strong Winds and Hot Air in Malibu •
BY ANNE SOBLE
The latest round of Santa Ana winds that neared hurricane force in local canyons and passes and the red-flag warnings of high fire danger that ensued meant that many Malibuites were stressed during what seemed like an interminably long weekend.
Chief among the danger signs that locals know they have to watch for during Santa Anas are leaning or fallen utility poles and lines because they can be a major factor in wildfires starting and spreading.
The Public Utilities Commission recently approved new regulations to try to prevent poles and lines from adding to the wildfire danger that include increasing brush clearance around electrical equipment and recalculation of the weight loads on power poles when new equipment is attached. Existing overloaded poles still need to be addressed.
Companies that operate cellular telephone towers and other aerial communication facilities on poles and near lines must now regularly inspect them.
Investor-owned utilities are authorized to turn off power to property owners who block the utilities' clearance efforts around overhead power lines.
Southern California Edison has sent out a press release indicating that the Southland utility worked with the PUC to develop the new rules, which makes us wary of how easy they will be to sidestep.
Exacerbating our ongoing concern last week was viewing a brief video clip of Southern California Edison's president at a meeting where he sonorously opined, "We can't control the weather, but we can and we will improve our response to it."
This says to me that SCE approach remains reactive instead of proactive and ignores the need to address emergency preparedness in advance. There appears to be no way that Southern California Edison will imperil its hefty profits until it is forced to, and if it is only going to be forced to do so after the fact, it is likely that more homes may be lost.
When Malibu City Council members at the Jan. 23 meeting asked SCE's local public relations honcho for an update on the power pole issue, he had none to offer. Edison appears to prefer that its spokespersons be glad-handers, and not attempt to address serious customer concerns.
Malibuites should support the proposal that SCE and four communications companies together be fined almost $100 million for alleged violations, including pole overloading, that may have contributed to the 2007 Malibu Canyon fire. Then they will have to be vigilant to prevent Edison et al. from trying to stick their customers with the bill.