CA Natural Gas System Remained Mostly Unscathed by Fires

Although several major wildfires still raged Friday, particularly in the mountains east of Los Angeles and San Diego, the region's natural gas infrastructure escaped virtually unaffected by California's worst outbreak of fires in recent memory. Three major distribution networks and one intra-state backbone transmission system traverse the heavily gas-dependent Southern California area.

As of Friday, San Diego-based Sempra Energy's two utilities -- Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric Co. -- and Las Vegas, NV-based Southwest Gas Corp. that serves the fire-threatened San Bernardino Mountain community of Big Bear, CA, reported no major damage to the infrastructure. All were poised to shut off service to given communities in the event the fires were thought to overrun a given population center.

A Las Vegas-based Southwest Gas spokesperson said his company had evacuated all but five of its employees in Big Bear Lake where the utility serves 18,700 homes and businesses. The five-person team stayed put in case the utility had to cut service to the town of Big Bear, which was evacuated, along with Lake Arrowhead, earlier in the week.

Although at one point one of the wildfires closest to Los Angeles approached one of SoCalGas's major underground storage facilities, the Sempra gas transmission and distribution systems have functioned as "business as usual," according to a Los Angeles-based spokesperson for SoCal. The fire near the storage field is now controlled.

Field service technicians for all three gas utilities have been busy in and around all of the fire-threatened areas, shutting down individual services or restoring them as needed, but otherwise the system is unscathed. SoCal maintains a close watch over Lake Arrowhead, however, since it serves thousands of homes in that mountain community that as of Friday was still evacuated, but so far had escaped major structural damage from the fires.

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