June 24, 2019
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Maine firefighters sound alarm about proposed CMP transmission line after deadly California wildfire

Noah Berger | AP
Noah Berger | AP
In this Nov. 9, 2018 file photo, firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, Calif.

The deadliest and most destructive fire in California history was caused by electrical transmission lines, according to an announcement this week by investigators.

More than 18,000 homes and businesses were destroyed and 85 people died.

The owner of the lines, Pacific Gas and Electric, filed for bankruptcy protection in January.

In a letter obtained by the CBS 13 I-Team, Maine firefighters are sounding the alarm about a proposed new transmission line cutting through Maine.

“Information to date indicates that consideration of the many emergency hazards associated with the construction and future management of the NECEC Corridor have not been addressed. Due to this oversight, we conclude that the preparedness and safety of our fire fighters, and other first responders who will respond to NECEC Corridor incidents, has been severely overlooked and their security and safety significantly compromised,” wrote Ken Desmond, President of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters, in the letter.

Desmond sent a letter to several state agencies and the governor, flagging concerns about fire and emergency response along a proposed transmission line project.

Central Maine Power wants to build the New England Clean Energy Connect, a new 145-mile line through western Maine, to deliver hydropower from Canada to Massachusetts.

“We’re not for or against the project, we just what to know what is it for us, for our first responders,” Desmond said.

Desmond included a map in his letter and pointed out the first 70 miles of the proposed corridor from the Quebec border to Bingham has no organized fire response department.

The area is covered by the Maine Forest Service.

“It’s a long haul and things can really get out of hand with time,” Desmond said.

Thorn Dickinson, Vice President of Business Development at Avangrid and a spokesman for the project, told CBS 13 in a statement that the company’s transmission line maintenance practices, including frequent inspection, maintenance, and vegetation clearance, are governed by strict federal standards.

“The 53 miles of new transmission lines for the New England Clean Energy Connect project represent less than a 2 percent increase in the potential exposure of transmission lines to tree contact along CMP rights of way,” Dickson’s statement said. “As directed by the Maine Public Utilities Commission in its order approving the project, we will work closely with all host communities to address their safety concerns and to ensure the New England Clean Energy Connect will be safely maintained, which is consistent with CMP’s long established history of assured public safety.”

Desmond would like a study on fire and emergency response along the corridor route.

“I think that’s what we need to have them look at; we’ll work with them,” he said.

 



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