Fire Safety Outage Management

Chelan PUD’s most important responsibility is protecting the safety of the communities we serve. While we remain dedicated to reliability, the growing threat of catastrophic wildfire in Chelan County is real. That’s why we are starting to develop a plan to prevent our electrical equipment from causing a fire during extreme weather conditions. It’s called a Fire Safety Outage, and it’s a measure of last resort when public safety is threatened. 

Photo of crew trimming hazard trees away from PUD power lines

PUD fire mitigation strategies include trimming hazard trees near power lines. 

 

What is a Fire Safety Outage?

A fire safety outage is a proactive power outage designed to prevent wildfire ignitions from utility infrastructure. We are working closely with local fire districts and emergency responders to develop a plan that includes coordinated response, early and often communication, and seeks to address any adverse impacts. 

Photo of fire damage to PUD transmission lines

Fire damage to Chelan PUD transmission poles.

Why Fire Safety Outages?

  • Of the 10 most destructive fires on the West Coast in the last 30 years, half were caused by electrical equipment.
  • Most of the pilot area for fire safety outage management – including Plain, Lake Wenatchee and upper Chumstick Highway, was rated “very high risk” for fire in the 2019 Chelan County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
  • Of the 25 most exposed communities to wildfire, the Leavenworth area was listed as the #1 most at risk, according to a U.S. Forest Service Study.
  • Chelan PUD commissioned studies of its transmission and distribution lines in 2017 and 2020. Both studies showed that the Lake Wenatchee/Plain area is most at-risk for wildfire due to the concentration of trees, overhead lines, and structures.
Map of Phase 1 (2021) Fire Safety Outage area

Map of Phase 1 fire safety outage area


2021 Phase 1 Area

Wildfire risk studies consistently identify the Lake Wenatchee, Plain and Chumstick Highway as the highest-risk areas in Chelan County. A preemptive power shutoff is a rarely utilized tool available today to manage extreme fire risk. We know how much our customer-owners rely on electricity, and the impacts that a power outage may have. We are developing this fire safety outage management plan to help reduce those impacts in the rare circumstance when it may be needed.

Our next step is to widen our engagement with local experts and review the plan with our Board of Commissioners. We may expand this plan to other high-risk areas as needed in the future.

What to Expect

If adopted, here’s what you can expect if a fire safety outage occurs:

  • Early Warning Notification – When extreme fire weather is forecasted as imminent, we will send customer alerts as early and often as possible. Please make sure that Chelan PUD has your correct contact information by entering it here or calling (509) 661-8002. Please sign up for AlertSense notifications through Chelan County Emergency Management. Create a fire "Go Kit"
  • Ongoing Updates – We will provide ongoing updates through email, social media, local news outlets, partner agencies, and on our outage page.
  • Safety Inspections – After extreme weather has passed, crews will inspect the lines before power is safely restored.
  • Power Restoration – Power outages may last 24 hours or more, depending on conditions. Prepare a family emergency plan that includes water, food, and backup power generation if possible. 

Crews replace wood transmission poles with steel poles for fire mitigation.

Crews replace wood transmission poles with steel so that the poles can better withstand fires. 

Photo of fire retardant paint on PUD transmission poles

Fire retardant paint on transmission poles helps reduce impacts from brush fires.

Chelan PUD's Fire Mitigation Program also includes:

  • Increased tree-trimming & brush removal
  • Fire-retardant treatments
  • Steel poles or undergrounding where feasible
  • Increased inspections during fire season
  • Coordination with local agencies
  • Refurbishments & replacements of aging infrastructure
  • Increasing the sensitivity of fire protection systems

Questions?

Do you have questions or comments about Fire Safety Outage Management? Send them to customeroutreach@chelanpud.org

Additional Resources