In 2018 PG&E pleaded guilty to starting the Camp Fire, which claimed 84 lives

Claim: Climate Change is Causing Catastrophic Power Line Fires

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t Dr. Willie Soon; According to NPR’s Julia Simon, climate change is killing all the trees overhanging power lines which utility companies thought were safe to ignore.

Climate Change Is Killing Trees And Causing Power Outages

September 21, 20215:00 AM ET

On a hill in Oakland, Calif., Igor Lacan looks out from under his Stetson hat at the neighborhood below and begins listing trees.

“Maples to birches to plums to liquid amber,” says Lacan, horticulture adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension. “A cedar. I see some palms, and then you’ve got a monkey puzzle up here!”

In between the trees is a crisscrossing web of power lines, delivering electricity to the houses below. Lacan works as an adviser for California utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric, and he says while most of the trees seem to be flourishing, that’s not true for some nearby acacias. He points upward to a spiral of dead bark hanging off an acacia branch.

According to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, opportunistic fungi are killing these trees. California’s climate change-fueled drought, which has persisted for the better part of two decades, has stressed the trees and made them vulnerable to parasites.

According to more than a dozen of the country’s largest utilities, branches and trees falling on power lines are a leading source of power outages. Some utilities say that because of factors related to climate change, trees are dying faster than they can reach them on their normal trimming cycles.

Nina Bassuk, professor of urban horticulture at Cornell University, explains that climate change can kill tree cells through a confluence of stressors. “It’s not like an animal, which dies when you pierce the heart — trees die cell by cell,” she says.

As climate change leads to more tree mortality and more blackouts, horticulturalists such as Lacan say the solution isn’t to plant fewer trees. It’s to plant different trees that can better endure drought and a hotter climate. Plus, shorter trees, he adds. “There are a number of short tree species that work quite well under those distribution lines.”

Read more:

In Australia where our tall Eucalyptus trees are all flammable fuel air bombs, more effort is made to keep power lines clear of trees, because our trees don’t have to be dead to start a major fire. The interesting part of ensuring there is no vegetation next to power lines is it works – even climate change can’t cause dead branches or trees to cut the power and start a fire, if there are no dead branches or trees close enough to fall on the lines.

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Tom Halla
September 22, 2021 10:06 am

Only Australia? When I was last in the Oakland hills in the early 2010’s, eucalyptus trees were quite common.

Reply to  Tom Halla
September 22, 2021 10:49 am

Go away spammer ! !

Reply to  Vuk
September 22, 2021 12:25 pm

Don’t be too hard on Griff…

Reply to  MiloCrabtree
September 23, 2021 12:32 am

Hey! I’m paid more than that by the Comintern – and better hours!

Reply to  griff
September 24, 2021 4:07 am

I’d say it cost you your soul, but that assumes that you are a human being and actually had one…….

Reply to  Tom Halla
September 22, 2021 10:55 am

In America according to BBC it is Global Heating,
Global heating: Study shows impact of ‘climate racism’ in US

In Australia must be Global Roasting.

Reply to  Vuk
September 22, 2021 12:21 pm

or in the Aussie lingo…Global barbie

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Tom Halla
September 22, 2021 11:00 am

Lots of firebombs out there

I save my 5’ Christmas tree and burn it out in fire pit on summer solstice, pagan thing

30’ firetorch, goes up in seconds

Hard to beat spruce for flammable material

Bryan A
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
September 22, 2021 2:21 pm

What the Utilities should be doing is clearcutting along Transmission and some distribution lines back to 50′ from the line then top trees 10′ shorter than their relative distance from the lines. And/or place the lines underground where cutting isn’t favored like Parks.

Robert Hanson
Reply to  Bryan A
September 22, 2021 3:36 pm

They don’t have the money to spend on that. It all goes to pay for the URE they are required by law to buy, even when they don’t need it. Need I mention they have to pay far more for that URE than they would for coal and gas RE energy.

Reply to  Robert Hanson
September 23, 2021 7:20 am

You are assuming the Green bureaucrats in Kalifornia would allow them to trim trees and brush from near and under the power lines. They have blocked the utilities from doing so in the past.

bill Johnston
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
September 22, 2021 3:46 pm

Looks like a can of gasoline going off. Spectacular1

Reply to  Tom Halla
September 22, 2021 3:28 pm

hello mods

September 22, 2021 10:12 am

Where I live, we have the extra tall power line poles which carry the cables high enough to miss large branches that snap off during high winds. And of course the poles are in swath cut through the timber with wide margins between the pole arms and the forest edge. And the overhang is trimmed once or twice a year. Then, once every other year, the debris on the forest floor is cleared out. Is this too hard for California?

California seems like that child who whines about everything and does nothing about.

Reply to  leowaj
September 22, 2021 10:44 am

California, my home state, is a single-party state run by and for the approved special-interest groups, including Club Green.

Reply to  leowaj
September 22, 2021 12:12 pm

California is causing all these problems on purpose(deliberate missmagement of forests to increase the fuel load so they can have spectacular fires as proof of AGW.
Same thing with water management.Massive population increase but no new reservoirs are being built,so they can exploit the coming water crisis they created for AGW propaganda and make themselves look like heroes when they sent trucks and ships with water.They used this strategy also to create the homeless crisis.
The strategy the Somoza Clan of California is using is a mix of Hegelian dialectics and munchhausen proxy syndrome.The only difference,when the Pelosis fail they don’t need to escape to the USA as Somoza,Marcos,Gullen and other deep state puppets did,as they live already there.

R Terrell
Reply to  leowaj
September 22, 2021 3:18 pm

I lived in California from 1964 until I left in 1996. During that time, they originally did just as you describe. There were fires, in the forests but it was usually either lightening strikes or arson, as it is today. But they kept the power lines clear of over growth.Sometime before I left the state stopped doing that. That’s when the problems began. As I recall, it was under Jerry Brown (Moonbeam) that the SHTF!

September 22, 2021 10:15 am

Climate change == God, all powerful, powerful to do everything.

B Clarke
September 22, 2021 10:18 am

What say two decades ago was the standard maintenance schedule around power lines ,was tree maintenance different two decades ago than it is today?

Spuyten Duyvil
Reply to  B Clarke
September 22, 2021 3:03 pm

Tree maintenance has been deferred, but transmission tower and line maintenance has been deferred as well. The photo at the top of this post is of the 2018 Camp Fire that started when the horribly worn line components on a 68 year old transmission tower failed in the wind. PG&E permanently decommissioned the Caribou-Palermo line which is where the ignition occurred. Juan Browne, a commercial pilot with an aviation themed YT channel, had an excellent video (linked) covering PG&E’s problems, that also highlights the abysmal condition with hardware on the C-P transmission line. Juan also mentions the transmission line was long overdue for an inspection; the components that failed on November 8, 2018, were a disaster waiting to happen.

Reply to  Spuyten Duyvil
September 22, 2021 3:36 pm

I’m familiar with the area where the Camp Fire occurred. I don’t recall seeing any palm trees around.

September 22, 2021 10:31 am

Seems to be poor management by leftards, again. Rather than the climate apocalypse excuse.

September 22, 2021 10:39 am

Forrestmanagement is contraproductive to the “Cause”

Reply to  Krishna Gans
September 22, 2021 12:39 pm

Every job that is properly done and with common sense is contraproductive to the “Cause”.
Therefore they need permanent sabotage and woke parasites at top positions to bring the system so far down that communism looks like an improvement.

The first open plan to ruin the system on purpose was introduced to politics in 1966- the Cloward-Piven strategy.
The plan is to bancrupt the country with massive welfare payments for illegals(in case one doesn’t know what Nixon immigration reform was about)
to install a universal basic income.

September 22, 2021 10:49 am

Skipping right of way maintenance is a way to beef up profits and rate of return for investor owned utilities with short tenure CEO thinking. Signaling that’s okay by regulators and politicos makes it worse. All they have to do is beef up insurance and let that pay off the disaster while the CEOs retire with great benefits and capital gains.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  ResourceGuy
September 22, 2021 2:56 pm

Wrong. Regulated utilities get to recover their maintenance costs, including vegetation management. Assuming Mr. CEO wants to rest easy at night, his first inclination is to trim more, not less. Problem is, the ratepayers will accept only so much abuse, so the regulatory politicos need to keep the bona fide expenses low to accommodate the wishes of their green blob masters.

Pat from kerbob
September 22, 2021 10:56 am

Trees falling on lines is common and has always been common
That is why transmission and distribution lines always have reclosers that hit the fault a few times to burn off the tree before bothering to send out someone to look.

Decades long practice because trees

They have to prove they are dying quicker

More likely they are growing faster due to slight warmth and increasing CO2 plant food means the trees make more “tree” faster.
A good thing, greening.

But requires increased cycles for maintenance

September 22, 2021 10:56 am

Sharing as requested:

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Willie Soon and 19 co-authors of the RAA paper

September 22, 2021 11:01 am

In 2016 CA Gov. Brown vetoed legislation for routing power lines underground where they belong. Droughts have history and trees die naturally and are subject to pests, wind, and disease but now it’s because of CC?

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  markl
September 22, 2021 12:26 pm

Buried high voltage power lines cost about 10x more. Can’t spend $Billions on wind, solar and especially batteries PLUS buried cable.

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  markl
September 22, 2021 1:29 pm

Usually the right-of-ways for the power lines are along the flattest routes through an area.


(Sorry for the shouting.)

Clear these areas and mow them with big bat-wing mowers wherever possible. Even if you can’t disc or burn them prior to fire season, a competent fire department can put out grass fires on ground where they can drive their trucks and when they have notice the fire is coming.

This is not rocket science. However, even a low bar is too much for California Democrats to handle.

John VC
September 22, 2021 11:38 am

I belong to a rural electric co-op, and live in a rather wooded area. If I get light flicker during high wind, all I have to do is call, and there will be a service truck out later that day or the next to trim growth along the line. Suppose that’s the difference between investor owned utilities, and customer owned–rather spend a little on preventative maintenance than a lot on major repairs

Reply to  John VC
September 22, 2021 12:26 pm

They had the trained staff as employees too. Now its sub contracted to a ‘maintenance’ company and as they now ‘need’ arborists , they join the queue to get these people around.

John MacDonald
Reply to  John VC
September 22, 2021 1:46 pm

In Mariposa, Ca county PG&E works constantly on surveys and trimming of tree along its ROWs and easements. They cut back branches and full trees for no charge to landowners.
In our 10 years here. I have put in many hundreds of hours dealing with windfall caused by fungus-killed tree roots. And trimming to 8 feet to reduce low fuel. And creating safe space as recommended by Cal Fire. Most people do the same. So many private lands are pretty good. But the National Forests and other public lands need a lot of help.
Governor Hairgel ain’t providing.
Want to learn the art of the chainsaw? Come visit.

John VC
Reply to  John MacDonald
September 22, 2021 2:07 pm

Have three stihls myself,,but at 75, I don’t much care to drag them out too often any more. We also have an issue with the post oaks being attacked by a fungus–many are hollow, and it doesn’t take much wind to lay them over. Clearing fence lines after a good wind is a chore.

September 22, 2021 11:54 am

As I recall, in the 1960s we could see the ridges and power lines in the Sierra Madres (mountains north of LA and environs) from the valley floor (so 10-30 miles away) on a clear day (not that there were many). We could see them because there was a wide (100’+) firebreak bulldozed along each ridge and power line. Now that’s mostly unbroken vegetation, but unfortunately not un-burnt.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  John_C
September 22, 2021 12:30 pm

There you go. Firebreaks or wildfires take your choice. Not the entire answer but an essential one.

Mike Dubrasich
September 22, 2021 12:08 pm

FYI, the Tunnel Fire (1991) burned 1,520 acres in Oakland, destroyed 2,843 single-family homes and 437 apartment buildings, and k*lled 25 people. Eucalyptus trees fueled it.

North of Oakland in Napa and Sonoma Counties the Kincade Fire (2019) burned 77,758 acres and destroyed 374 structures, the Tubbs Fire (2017) burned 36,807 acres, destroyed 5,636 structures and k*lled 22 people, the Nuns Fire (2017) burned 54,423 acres, destroyed 1,355 structures and k*lled 3 people, the Atlas Fire (2017) burned 51,624 acres, destroyed 120 structures and k*lled 6 people, and the Valley Fire (2015) burned 76,067 acres, destroyed 1,955 structures and k*lled 4 people — to name just a few of the recent North Bay fires. Those fires were fueled by live oak and brush.

It’s the fuels, stupid. If the powerlines didn’t spark them, something else would have. A lot of biomass accumulates in 150 years. Doing nothing about the fuels has proved time and again to be fatal and catastrophically negligent. Tragically, the braindead residents of Calistupid and their elected morons have learned nothing.

Thomas Gasloli
September 22, 2021 12:13 pm

Who knew, rising CO2 cause managerial incompetence at PG&E. The CO2 keeps them from performing proper line management and tree removal.😃

Steve Z
September 22, 2021 12:19 pm

Trees can fall on power lines for a variety of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with drought.

I used to live in Connecticut (1996 – 2013), where droughts are rare, but there are fairly frequent power outages due to trees falling on power lines. Most of these outages occur in winter, when ice from a freezing-rain storm can accumulate on high branches, causing them to bend down on power lines. Other outages occur if there is an early snowstorm in autumn when the trees still have leaves, and wet snow accumulating on leaves can cause tree branches to sag or break. Tree branches can also be blown down by high winds in late spring or summer, when the trees tend to hang on to their green leaves. None of this is due to “global warming”.

Shortly before I left Connecticut, the power company offered to cut down a huge sycamore tree (at no cost) in my front yard, which was over 60 feet tall and had a trunk 2 feet in diameter, with some hollowed-out areas where squirrels had built a nest, and its branches were overhanging the power lines. If that tree had fallen on a power line, no one could blame “global warming”, because the tree had grown there long before the house or the power lines were built, and had survived many storms.

Trees, like animals and people, go through a life cycle. They grow rapidly during their early years, and if they manage to survive while their trunks are relatively thin, their trunks grow thicker and more resistant to storms over the decades, and their branches tend to spread out horizontally rather than growing taller vertically, especially if the tree is near a road, with side branches seeking more sunlight over the road, without competition from neighboring trees.

But a mature tree can be attacked by fungi and/or insects, which can weaken the trunk, and enable rainwater to enter and allow for rotting. If the trunk is weakened, a storm which the tree could have withstood in earlier years could blow it down later in its life. If a large branch is blown down in a storm, insects can invade the wood at the breakage point and eventually weaken the trunk.

Blaming fallen tree branches on “climate change” is merely an excuse for failure to clear dead branches over-hanging power lines. All trees will eventually weaken and be blown down by storms, so the power companies need to do periodic inspections to locate dead or dying branches, and remove them safely before they fall on a power line. This is also true for homeowners, who should have dead or dying branches removed before they fall on the house!

September 22, 2021 1:08 pm

how often must this be repeated? science FACT = the climate is NOT a force, it has NO power and in no way has control over the weather or anything else.

September 22, 2021 1:32 pm

I’m sure glad NPR has finally gotten the reasons right for what causes drought in California. It’s human released CO2 that causes everything weather related.

And here for decades I thought it was the El Nino La Nina cycles moving the positions of Hadley Cells over the Pacific Ocean that did it. But those are naturally occurring, so blame can’t be placed on humans who deserve it.

September 22, 2021 2:27 pm

If trees were that sensitive they would not survive the past 10,000 years.

Trying to Play Nice
September 22, 2021 2:37 pm

So now they blame climate change for having an inadequate tree trimming program.

bill Johnston
September 22, 2021 3:45 pm

A can of spray paint and a chain saw would do wonders for the power lines. Mark each in fringing tree and remove it. It is called a “fire break”. Worked well in Wisconsin.

Fred Middleton
Reply to  bill Johnston
September 29, 2021 2:33 am

Technically called ‘fuel break’. Fire Break has 0 fuel

J Mac
September 22, 2021 4:20 pm

The Orwellian double speak is soooooo apropos!

September 22, 2021 5:54 pm

In the suburban upper US Midwest, the local electric utility regularly trims trees into a V so that the wide-open top of the V is at or above the power lines. Close to the ground the V is narrow leaving (!) some green along the street. This is done on a regular schedule and they encourage customers to call if they spot a tree or limb that could damage a line.

Here the problem is not fire but the cost of replacing a downed line — especially during a storm when things can get pretty busy.

And it’s a for-profit public company.

September 22, 2021 6:21 pm

Mods, did I use a banned word in my comment I posted to this post earlier today?

September 22, 2021 6:26 pm

Who, specifically, passed local ordinances blocking people from trimming nuisance foliage from near residential powerlines? Same question for ordinances blocking people from clearing same type foliage from around residential structures? For extra points which political party are they prominent, lifelong members of?

September 22, 2021 8:18 pm

South Australia didn’t have much in the way of big trees but a bit of ingenuity solved the problem- Stobie pole – Wikipedia

The plus is they don’t burn in bushfires but you don’t want to run into them-
picture car crash stobie pole – Bing images
They’re not exactly your friendly shear off hollow light poles 🙁

September 22, 2021 8:48 pm

There’s three factors at play here:

1) PG&E was lax on tree trimming for decades. They’re catching up now, but it will be a decade or more to catch up.

2) California, Feds, and some local governments make tree trimming impossible. Many electric lines are on public land. If the state prevents them from trimming trees, whose fault is it when those trees cause a fire?

3) There’s too much fuel. Trees contacting lines cause fires everywhere. In California, the excess fuel from decades of land management choices turns these fires into catastrophes.

Peta of Newark
September 23, 2021 2:23 am

Quote:”Nina Bassuk, professor of urban horticulture at Cornell University, explains that climate change can kill tree cells through a confluence of stressors. “It’s not like an animal, which dies when you pierce the heart — trees die cell by cell,” she says.”

Sorry hun, Methinks you watch too much trash TV

Animals cells die when they fill up with sugar. There is nothing they can do about it, such is the affinity that sugar has for water.
Thus animals do die ‘cell-by-cell’
It manifests as Auto-immune disease, Cancer, Dementia and, not least, Diabetes

At the very bottom of it all though, plants and animals are stressed and thereafter succumb to pestilence because of One Thing
viz: Poor-quality low-nutrient food

Most folks round here know exactly what I (peta of newark) allude to…

Andy H
September 23, 2021 5:54 am

CO2 may cause trees (which power companies thought they could ignore) bring down power lines. CO2 makes plants grow faster. Bigger tree = more branches near power lines.

I like big trees.

very old white guy
September 23, 2021 6:35 am

Who, in charge of any powerline maintenance would allow anything to encroach on the lines? The level of stupid would be criminal.

Andrew Kerber
September 23, 2021 7:54 am

Apparently nature acts differently in Cali than anywhere else in the country. In every other state, branches in trees break and die routinely due to weather and other causes. And before they buried the power lines here in my state, the power company would come through every few years and trim back the trees dramatically to make sure the dead branches didnt break off and fall on the power lines. Evidently nature doesnt work that way in CA because tree branches dont break.

Randle Dewees
September 23, 2021 8:53 am

i woke up last night to close all my windows against the smoke coming from the “Windy” fire, burning in the South Sierra about 40 miles to the west. This is a lightning caused fire now up over 40,000 acres and basically totally out of control. I’ve watched this fire develop from a few acres, and fear this will become a truly huge devastating fire of hundreds of thousand of acres. And, it didn’t need to happen this way.

This one was obviously “slow walked” on the response. The response was moderated to allow this fire to build. I know this area really well, there are lots of roads and access. The management could have had a thousand fire fighters there in the first week and stuffed it right out. Resources were available from the by then in control Caldor and Dixie fires. But no, there were just a few hundred personnel, fiddling around the edges, as it grew into what? Something that justifies the budgets? Satisfies the ecologists and the policy of “beneficial burning”?

I don’t have answers to those questions but I see a pattern of fire response here. It seems depressingly cynical – let the fire go to 5000 acres then mount a serious, expensive, response. If it goes to plan the fire gets to 20K acres and 10 million dollars is expended. If the gamble goes bad, we get this, a monster fire.

September 23, 2021 11:03 am

“The interesting part of ensuring there is no vegetation next to power lines is it works”

But that means someone needs to take responsibility. MUCH easier to blame “climate change” than to actually do something about the problem.

September 24, 2021 4:06 am

If California and the West Coast did not burn every year, government money would dry up. It’s not climate change, etc, IT’S GOVERNMENT HANDOUTS. Plus, Newsom hates you fools that kept him office. I figure stupid has its consequences and this is one. You California and West Coast people LOVE burning to the ground or you’d do something about it. People love that which they never fight against nor take action against, or better yet, keep begging for.

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