OPALCO Is Prepared for Wildfire Prevention – Are You?
(September 14) Safety is the primary objective at the core of everything OPALCO (Eastsound, Wash.) does. OPALCO continues to use an aggressive Right-of-Way Program (tree and brush trimming along power lines) and the latest technologies to reduce flammable material and mitigate fire risk. The long-term investment is key to the safety of our island communities. As the dramatic effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, San Juan County will be particularly vulnerable to drought conditions and wildfire safety will be even more critical for our remote communities.
OPALCO’s transmission and distribution system allows OPALCO staff to operate and monitor the system in real-time and respond quickly to any power issues and get the power up and running when there is a fault in the line. For example, if a limb hits a power line the system is able to “repair itself” and reboot after the limb has fallen off the line. During wildfire season, we turn this feature off which means the system is less likely to cause dry limbs to catch fire. There is also a sophisticated automated system monitoring our high voltage overhead lines that can detect flammable items in proximity to the transmission lines and shut off power when and if one does makes contact.
Recent wildfires associated with electric facilities make it clear that tree contact with energized electrical conductors can be a risk to the safety of people, property, forest health and our essential infrastructure. OPALCO’s Right-of-Way Program addresses vegetation growing in the proximity of overhead power lines and prevents trees and limbs falling into the lines. OPALCO is exploring key partnerships in the county that take into account forest health and fire resiliency to expand this critical program. It will require cooperation from landowners, OPALCO members and community partners.
The unprecedented climate wildfires and rolling blackouts that California is experiencing today should be seen as the proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” alerting us to the very real potential for major fires and energy shortages here in the Pacific Northwest as climate extremes move northward. Each of us can do our part to reduce the fuel for wildfires on our property and organize our neighborhoods through programs such as Fire Wise (www.firewise.org) to be prepared.
EWEB Crews Restore Service to Residents from the Thurston Area East to Walterville
(September 13) Eugene Water & Electric Board (Ore.) repair crews restored electric service to all customers in the Thurston, Hayden Bridge, and Cedar Flat areas on Sunday as fire conditions eased.
Crews also restored service to Walterville east to the intersection of Highway 126 and Camp Creek Road. Other restorations completed Sunday include Camp Creek Road, Upper Camp Creek Road and Shenandoah Loop.
Areas east and south of the Camp Creek/Highway 126 intersection remain in the Level 3 evacuation zone. As those areas are downgraded to Level 2 or Level 1, EWEB crews are ready to begin assessment and restoration work.
EWEB crews also worked Sunday with Fire Command to assist clearing power lines in areas where danger trees need to be removed or to provide access for Fire Command’s structural inspection and damage assessment teams in areas east of Walterville. Other EWEB staff are working with the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, and other agencies to remove danger trees and damaged power poles on secondary roads.
The highway remains very treacherous, and there’s been damage to the road itself as well as numerous fallen trees, power poles, and large rocks. With the large amount of emergency responder equipment being transported and poor visibility due to heavy smoke and fog, extreme caution is required.
EWEB staff continue close coordination with Fire Command to confirm it is safe to re-energize power lines in order to ensure the safety of emergency responders working in the lower McKenzie River areas.
OTEC Sending Crew to Aid in Restoration Efforts Amid Devastating Wildfires
(September 12) Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (Baker City, Ore.) has dispatched a five-man crew and a superintendent to assist in coordination activities to aid restoration efforts for residents left without power after vicious wildfires caused mass destruction in the town of Detroit in Marion County and the surrounding area.
The following OTEC employees have volunteered to take part in the mission to help restore power for their fellow Oregonians in need:
- Pat McCluskey, senior district superintendent
- Chris Deiter, foreman, John Day
- Chris Peppers, journeyman lineman, Baker
- Casey Mitchell, journeyman lineman, Baker
- Travis Smart, journeyman lineman, La Grande
- Devan Attleberger, journeyman lineman, Burns
On the afternoon of September 12, the OTEC crew left for Detroit to help crews from Consumers Power Inc., restore power to its service territory after many areas the cooperative serves was destroyed by fast-moving wildfires. As of 6 p.m. on September 12, more than 96% of CPI’s members remain without power in the area of east Marion County, according to the cooperative’s outage map.
“We are thankful to be able to send crews to Marion County and neighboring areas if needed to help get the lights back on,” said Mike Pommarane, OTEC’s director of operations. “We take great pride in our electric cooperative family and are always willing to be able to help fellow members in need.”
Pommarane says the request for help came through a mutual aid agreement with other Oregon cooperatives through the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative network.
“As families struggle without power and the potential loss of lives and property because of these catastrophic fires, we are glad to be able to be on the ground assisting in any way we can,” he says.
Pommarane says the top priority of each local Oregon cooperative, including OTEC, is service to its own member-owners and the safety of the communities they serve. Before committing resources to mutual aid requests, each co-op ensures it has ample crews available for all local needs, including routine maintenance and the cooperative’s own outage mitigation. Since OTEC currently has available resources and manpower, Pommarane says it made it an easy decision to send a crew out to help.
“It’s a perfect example of co-op helping co-op,” he says.
Pommarane said the crew could be helping repair power for up to a week and possibly longer if needed and available.
“When we asked for volunteers for this trip, our employees recognized the gravity of the situation and stepped up to help.” Pommarane says. “That shows how serious our employees took an assignment like this, knowing they were volunteering to be away from their homes, their families for a significant length of time.”
Emerald PUD Wildfire and Outage Update
(September 10) We continue to monitor conditions throughout our District, particularly in those areas that have been designated evacuation zones. This afternoon, our crews restored power to Hill Road in Marcola, which is currently in a Level 2 evacuation zone.
Please note that due to continued fire risk, we do not plan to energize any areas in a Level 3 evacuation zone unless specifically asked to do so by state authorities. To date, large sections of the Mohawk Valley and Marcola remain under a Level 3 and power will remain off, with limited exceptions, until further notice. We will work to restore power as quickly and safely as possible once conditions allow.
We understand how difficult this situation is for customers in these areas and appreciate your continued patience and understanding.
For Emerald’s latest wildfire and outage updates, visit www.epud.org/wildfire-outage-2020/.