Paradise's Underground Infrastructure Future

We check in with the progress the Town of Paradise has made to get all of its utilities underground as people rebuild.

Posted: Nov 8, 2019 7:00 AM
Updated: Nov 8, 2019 4:54 PM

PARADISE, Calif. - "I got the keys to this place and never thought that literally one year to the day, I'd be evacuating my house," said Angela Alford.

When the Sheriff's Office lifted the Camp Fire evacuation order -- Angela Alford looked over the rubble where her home once stood– but saw a future much brighter than the destruction.

"I'm going to have a bigger kitchen, the first thing I'm probably going to make is cupcakes, salmon, I'll probably be feeding half the Town of Paradise the first day I get home," Alford said. "I've been Googling and Pinteresting things that I want to do for the yard… I'm just excited to have a house back again."

Alford says she's not afraid to rebuild in a high fire danger zone; things will be different this time.

"Putting power lines and any utilities underground is going to be a real positive for the town. I have a feeling that we're going to be the town to look to for fire safety and it's going to be a town that people will learn from in the future for what to do and what not to do," Alford said.

As the Town of Paradise rebuilds after the Camp Fire, it asked PG&E to put its 190 miles of power lines underground.

"Paradise has been envisioning wider roads and other ways to make safer egress during an emergency – one of the things identified as a problem is downed powerlines during the fire," said PG&E Spokesperson Paul Moreno.

But it's not just power lines – the town wants all utilities underground.

Town Council passed a "dig once" ordinance" in October to limit trenching to once every 5 years per area.

It's a push to get cable, internet, and other service providers to put a conduit underground whenever PG&E digs a trench.

"A main driver for the ordinance is the less often they do the trenching, the less often they have to stop traffic for it."

AT&T and Comcast both let the town know they're thinking about going underground but are not ready to commit.

Brandon Delgado is nearly done rebuilding his home. The power lines on his street are already underground – so with the Dig Once Ordinance in place, it may be a while before cable and internet can follow suit.

"Right now the fiber-optic lines are on the new telephone poles. I just kind of assumed they would be put in place with the PG&E line. There's always that option to have satellite, but that's a big concern now that I think about it," Delgado said.

Plus - the underground utility plan will take several years to finish, so, for now, rebuilders have to buy a temporary power poll to get on the grid.

But many say the investment, and facing the unknown, is worth it.

"I have faith that it's all going to work out, I don't know if that means making some wrong decisions and having to go back and change decisions that were made, but I have faith that it will all work out," Delgado said.

"If we can at least learn the things not to do in the future, and be able to move forward and correct those mistakes and just make Paradise a better town, as far as safety, then those 86 lives that we lost weren't for nothing," Alford said.

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