Extreme Wildfires Threaten Rolling Blackouts Across State - NBC Southern California

Coverage of one of California's most severe dry spells on record and its dramatic turnaround

Extreme Wildfires Threaten Rolling Blackouts Across State

Extreme drought raises possibilities of fires burning power lines



    While a shortage of electric power is not expected during the summer, energy officials say conservation is key to getting through what is likely to be an active fire season. Kim Baldonado reports from Alhambra for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 27, 2014. (Published Friday, June 27, 2014)

    Tinderbox conditions exacerbated by a historic California drought could put power lines across the state at risk of failing this summer, officials said.

    The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state's power grid, warned Friday that extreme heat could cause "rolling blackouts" this summer, meaning some places could see no power for periods of time.

    "Fires in particular are going to be a problem this year," said Steve Berberich, the chief executive officer of Cal-ISO.

    Wildfires burn underneath the transmission lines and cause power outages, Berberich said.

    If there are no devestating fires, then there is enough power available for the summer, but officials are urging the public to conserve power usage.

    "It's a great time right now to go and put LED lights in," said Robert Weisenmiller, chair of the California Energy Commission, referring to the low-energy bulbs.

    Officials suggested setting thermostats to 78 degrees or higher.

    Federal officials in May said that all of California remains in "severe" drought or worse. The conditions are the most extreme in the U.S. Drought Monitor's 15-year history.

    Three months ago, 90 percent of the state was considered in severe to exceptional drought. A year earlier, that figure was less than half of the state.

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