Out West student blog

Introduction to Wildfires in the West and the Experiences of Remotely Interning

Alex Evers lets off some steam after work in his garage gym. (photo credit: Nolan Evers)

By Alex Evers '22
Hometown: Pasadena, CA
Major: Earth Systems
Intern, Western Interstate Energy Board

Effectively engaging with my remote experience and trying to make as large of an impact as I can is my first step in serving the people of the West this summer. This summer, my project consists of analyzing wildfire data within the West to help develop a data system that could improve wildfire mitigation plans for western utilities and reduce the severity of Public Safety Power Shutoffs. I believe this has a direct impact on people living within the Western United States, as wildfires are becoming increasingly widespread and severe. The reduction in duration of a Public Safety Shutoff will also positively affect the people of the West, as reducing the duration by 20% could give people one more day of power. Beyond wildfire safety, the data system we are proposing would help overall grid reliability and help reduce customer blackouts or at least reduce the scope of an outage. Working on this project has really opened my eyes to the intricacies of wildfire management and mitigation and to just how necessary the development of these wildfire mitigation practices are for the safety and security of communities throughout the West. 

At one meeting in particular, I learned very interesting things about Wildfire Mitigation technology. It was the second webinar of WECC’s Wildfire Mitigation webinar series and had guests from a variety of utilities throughout the West. During this webinar, I learned just how much cutting-edge technology is in use to prevent and control wildfires. For example, San Diego Gas and Electric has a system that predicts how a fire would spread using satellite imagery, fuel moisture content, wind speed/direction, and many more variables to create a map that shows the actual fire path and radius.

This internship has also made me seriously look at a career path involving wildfire mitigation and grid reliability. During this remote internship experience, I have learned a variety of new skills, ranging from data collection to vastly improved reading comprehension. I have also gained experience working with policymakers and learned how to present information to make effective change. Through this internship, I have also learned that working remotely is not terrible. There are definitely challenges when it comes to communication; for example, I do not have the ability to stop by my mentor’s desk and ask questions throughout the day. However, with this experience, communication consists of planned video meetings that are incredibly helpful and supportive, but there is a loss of ease, which is expected in this virtual environment and has taken time to get used to. Even though my internship is remote and, in that environment, one may not have the drive to perform at their best, the work I am doing can really help improve the lives of people throughout the West.

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