Palm trees near power lines in Southern California are being cut down in order to avoid them catching fire.
BILL WADELL: Palm trees blowing in the breeze. A beautiful staple in southern California communities. But palms, wind and drought conditions can be a dangerous combination.
REGGIE KUMAR: Dead palm fronds can also be carried by high winds and travel long distances, possibly hitting power lines along the way and starting a fire.
BILL WADELL: Reggie Kumar with Southern California Edison says the power company plans to cut down nearly 11,000 palm trees growing too close to power lines. The trees will be removed from places like Malibu, Santa Ana, Santa Clarita and the Simi Valley.
REGGIE KUMAR: Over the last four years, palms cause about 40% of our interruptions across our service area.
BILL WADELL: Kumar says palms grow quickly and require more trimming than other trees. Public safety is the top priority after a record-breaking wildfire season. Cal Fire says 4.2 million acres burned across California in 2020.
10,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed and 33 people died. Now, much of California is facing a drought.
BRIAN THOMPSON: Now you go from San Francisco down to San Diego, we're looking at only about half of normal rainfall has occurred so far, and we're running out of time.
BILL WADELL: AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brian Thompson says drought is always a concern in the west, but it doesn't always mean wildfires will happen. Lightning was blamed for sparking many of the large wildfires in northern California last year. Thompson says proactive work to reduce the risk is worth the investment.
BRIAN THOMPSON: It doesn't take much on a windy day to really get a fire started. And if it's windy enough, those can turn into very big fires very quickly.
REGGIE KUMAR: We know that Californians love their palms, but we're doing this to increase power reliability and prevent wildfires.
BILL WADELL: Work to take down palm trees that pose a hazard on private properties could take two years to complete. For AccuWeather, I'm Bill Wadell.