WASHINGTON — In 2018, nearly everything Laurie Brennan owned was reduced to ashes and debris and discarded in giant dumpsters that were called "the coffins."
Her Malibu home burned to the ground in the Woolsey Fire just 10 months after she moved in.
"I'm just a few feet away from the Pacific Ocean. I just figured there was no way my home would burn," Brennan said. "It was really scary. I have a picture of my neighbor in the front yard trying to water down these homes."
An investigation determined loose wires from a Southern California Edison power line sparked the fire. The high winds that day in November caused the flames to spread to nearly 100,000 acres quickly.
Brennan believes such disasters could be prevented if utility companies upgrade their transmission equipment.
"These power lines being above ground are a problem and [utility companies] know it," she said. "Just this last Thanksgiving, [SoCal Edison] shut our power off for three days because of the winds and risk of fires."
In Washington this week, at a House hearing on climate change, an official with the LA Department of Water and Power and clean energy experts testified about the fragility and vulnerability of power grids in states such as Texas and California.
They said upgrading and burying transmission lines, converting to clean energy and building microgrids that would operate independently of large power networks would help to make the nation's grid more reliable and resilient.
But upgrades could be costly. Under the bipartisan infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden, the U.S. Department of Energy will spend more than $17 billion on building a better grid initiative.
Funding for grid updates from the infrastructure bill should go out to states later this year.
Congressional representative Julia Brownley, a Democrat from Ventura County, said it's time America stops relying on fossil fuels and expands its grid technology.
"The possibilities of microgrids being judiciously spread throughout the state of California seems like a win-win," Brownley said.
Back in Malibu, Brennan has rebuilt her home on the same foundation, with improvements to make it resistant to wildfires. But she said the Woolsey Fire still haunts many in her community.
"Everybody gets PTSD," she said. "It definitely causes us all to freak out...anytime there's bad Santa Ana winds, I want to be right here. I don't want to leave."