Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


New Technology May Prevent Wildfires Caused By Power Lines

Power poles that burned in the Thomas Fire in December 2017 dangle above Highway 150. (Sharon McNary/LAist)
LAist relies on your reader support.
Your tax-deductible gift today powers our reporters and keeps us independent. We rely on you, our reader, not paywalls to stay funded because we believe important news and information should be freely accessible to all.

Utility power equipment has been blamed for some of California's most destructive and deadly wildfires in recent memory, including the Thomas Fire and the Camp Fire.

But researchers at Texas A&M University have produced a tool that purports to detect power line problems before they cause an outage or spark a blaze.

"This is the first tool that will be available to utilities that is predictive of faults and diagnostic, and will allow them to potentially find and fix things before a catastrophic event happens," said Dr. B. Don Russell, an electrical engineering professor who participated in the research. "That is truly a transformational change in the way they're gonna do business."

The software, called Distribution Fault Anticipation, sits on a circuit and looks for signs that a system may be in the early stages of failure. It's being tested by Southern California Edison, which has the software running on about 60 of its 1,100 circuits in high-fire-risk zones.

Support for LAist comes from

The technology costs about $15,000 to $20,000 per circuit, and is also being tested by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.