News

Chelan PUD expands plan to prevent wildfire, increase fire resilience

by Rachel Hansen | Jun 04, 2024

Lineman doing fire preventionWENATCHEE – Chelan PUD’s plan to prevent wildfire continues to evolve, including the county-wide expansion of a plan to proactively turn off power during extreme weather events.

For years, Chelan PUD has had a comprehensive wildfire plan intended to prevent wildfire and build a more fire-resilient electrical grid. The plan includes:

  • Vegetation management: Clearing hazard trees and shrubs away from powerlines
  • Fire hardening: Converting transmission structures to steel and fire protection around wood poles
  • Settings: Equipment upgrades and powerline setting changes in the highest fire risk areas to reduce the risk of ignition during fire season

Several of these measures are place-based, guided by fire risk assessments commissioned by Chelan PUD for its distribution and transmission lines.

In 2021, Chelan PUD developed one of Washington State’s first public safety power shutoff plans (PSPS) in a pilot area of about 3,000 customers in the Lake Wenatchee/Plain area. Chelan PUD calls it fire safety outage management. It’s a measure of last resort, and rarely used.

Starting this fire season, the utility announced the expansion of fire safety outage management to fire-prone areas county wide.

“It’s prudent that we put a robust wildfire mitigation plan in place to protect our communities from weather events, forest conditions and legal risks,” General Manager Kirk Hudson said.

Throughout the summer, the PUD will monitor the weather forecasts, including predicted wind gusts, humidity, fuel moisture and potential fire behavior. The conditions that trigger a fire safety outage are generally more severe than a red flag warning.

If a fire safety outage is forecasted to be necessary, the utility will attempt to notify customer-owners as soon as possible, ideally 48 hours in advance via email, recorded phone messages, the media, chelanpud.org, and through partners such as Chelan County Emergency Management.

The outage may last up to 24 hours or more, depending on the area crews need to inspect, and the amount of repair required to safely restore power. To date, Chelan PUD has not yet had to implement a fire safety outage, but is prepared to do so.

In other news, commissioners:

  • Considered a proposed purchase and sale agreement with Music Theatre of Wenatchee for a portion of the Fifth Street campus.
A lineman trims trees close to a power line

How to prepare for a fire safety outage:

  • Update your contact information: chelanpud.org/updateyourinfo
  • Sign up for Everbridge emergency notifications through Chelan County Emergency Management
  • Create an emergency plan. Stock up on water, non-perishable food, cash and medications.
  • Consider a back-up generator for critical needs, such as well pumps or refrigerators.
  • If you rely on electricity to operate medical equipment, sign up for the Electrical Medical Needs Registry: chelanpud.org/medform
  • You may also consider joining a vulnerable persons registry through Chelan County Emergency Management.

More information: chelanpud.org/fsom

Media contacts

Rachel Hansen: (509) 661-4320
Libby Siebens: (509) 661-8291

Outages or Emergencies

Visit our Safety and Outage Center for information, or to report an outage, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 1-877-PUD-8123.