Letters to the Editor July 1, 2018
High voltage lines overhead create danger below
Thank you for your June 15 front page story about the root causes of our area fires. Your article indicated that most of the fires were caused by trees or parts of trees falling onto PG&E power lines. As an electrical engineer with 40 years of electric power industry experience, I thought you might like to share the following additional information about high voltage electric power lines (HV lines) and wildfires. Most every home and business in Sonoma Valley gets electricity from the overhead 12,000 volt (12kV) HV lines that are visible everywhere. The next time you’re out walking or driving, look at the skinny HV lines at the top of power poles. Then look at the many neighboring trees that are taller than the HV lines, and the miles of HV lines with flammable vegetation underneath. If a tree or tree branch is close enough to fall across a HV line, an electric arc (a supersized spark) WILL occur, which can easily ignite a fire. Whenever a HV line falls to the ground, the same possibility exists. High winds increase the danger exponentially. Few people want to see 30-foot wide (or more) scars of barren soil under HV lines, and nobody wants their property to burn. We will need to find the right balance between saving trees, maintaining our beautiful scenery, and reducing wildfire danger.