Here’s what it will take to adapt the power grid to higher wildfire risks

Efforts to prevent wildfires, which are once again raging across California, have plunged vast parts of the state into darkness. Millions of people lost power in October in a series of deliberate blackouts intended to preempt power lines from sparking wildfires in especially dry, windy conditions. Cell towers died, leaving many without phone service. Traffic lights blinked out. Hospitals scrambled to keep lifesaving equipment running on backup generators. While disruptive, the cautionary electricity outages starting October 9 were meant to ward off something even more disastrous. In 2017 and 2018, wildfire season caused record-breaking destruction. Hundreds of fires in California in 2018 alone are thought to have been sparked by equipment run by power supply companies. Many were relatively small and easily put out, but others were more catastrophic — including the deadliest fire in California’s history, known as the Camp Fire, which killed more than 80 people and leveled the town of Paradise last November.

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