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Heat wave brings San Diego County fire, energy concerns

Posted at 10:30 AM, Sep 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-04 13:30:09-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A heat wave expected to bring record high temperatures to San Diego County this weekend will also bring a double whammy of wildfire danger and energy concerns to the area.

"We ramp up. We get ready," said Cal Fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser. "We'll have extra engines in place and extra personnel on duty."

Cal Fire is already stretched thin, as they continue to help with wildfire efforts across the state. Already in 2020 there have been around 7,400 fires with 1.8 million acres burned so far.

Last year at the same time, California had only seen 4,500 fires, burning 63,000 acres.

Bortisser said prolonged drought created excess fuel.

"We're starting to see fires get into those areas where dead trees are, and we're seeing these huge fires burning throughout the state,” Bortisser said.

There haven't been any major fires in San Diego County this year. Bortisser said people in San Diego can help lower the fire risk this weekend by putting off any activities that could create sparks.

"We want you do the right thing, but we want you do the right thing at the right time," said Bortisser. "This weekend is not the time to be out there with the power tools trying to clear weeds, chainsaws and things like that."

Bortisser added that there is still some time Friday to clear defensible space around your home, so firefighters can protect it if a wildfire starts.

Meanwhile, San Diego Gas & Electric is preparing for the surge of energy demand that comes with high temperatures.

The California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO), which manages the state's electric grid, issued a Flex Alert for the weekend. They're telling people to avoid heavy energy usage between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. from Friday through Monday.

SDG&E officials say that means San Diegans should not run major appliances like dishwashers or laundry machines during those hours. They also suggest setting air conditioners to 78 degrees to conserve energy.

"We are staying in very close touch with CAISO," said SDG&E spokesperson Helen Gao. "We're monitoring the weather and grid conditions, so we are ready to respond."

At CAISO's command, SDG&E did temporary blackouts for some customers in August during the last heat wave. It was the first time in 20 years that CAISO implemented statewide rolling blackouts.

If that needs to happen again this weekend, SDG&E says they'll spread the blackouts across the county so no one area is affected more than another.

"We'll go by group," said Gao. "You go through the first group, move to the second group, and after you've exhausted the entire list you go back to the top."