Avista is fighting wildfires before they happen

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It’s hard to imagine wildfire season is just around the corner.

Avista is preparing for the return of hot, dry weather and the increased risk of wildfire that comes along with it. Our Wildfire Resiliency Plan is focused on strengthening our system and reducing the potential of wildfire in our communities.

For over 20 years, Avista has made temporary changes to power line operations during the summer. The temporary changes are called Fire Safety Mode. During normal operations, our lines are set to try several times to clear a fault, reducing outage times. In Fire Safety Mode, to reduce the risk of fire, our line stays out until our crews determine it’s safe. Only then will we turn it back on. This can require more time to restore service but decreases potential fire danger.

Throughout the season, if higher winds and more extreme weather conditions are forecasted, we can increase the sensitivity of lines in specific areas. If trees, branches, or other debris come in contact with Avista’s power lines, the line will go out immediately.

Earlier this month, we announced the addition of a new strategy to our wildfire mitigation plan for the most extreme conditions. Beginning this year, Avista may turn off power in specific locations to help protect public safety. This is called a Public Safety Power Shutoff, or PSPS.

“Based on learning from other utilities who have implemented PSPS, it would only be used in the most extreme weather conditions,” said Heather Rosentrater, Avista President and COO. “We have other operational changes we can make, and we have been working for years to make our system stronger and more resilient. However, as we encounter more extreme weather events, we want to be prepared for all possibilities, and this is now a best practice in our industry.”

We’re continuing to replace wooden transmission poles with steel, installing fire-retardant wire mesh around the base of wood poles, replacing wooden crossarms with stronger fiberglass options, and increasing vegetation management to reduce contact between trees and power lines.

“The Idaho Department of Lands works collaboratively with partners to carry out fire risk-mitigation projects, convey fire-prevention messaging and plan effective fire-suppression strategies,” said Ara Andrea, Idaho Statewide Shared Stewardship Coordinator from Idaho Department of Lands. “Our agency supports Avista’s fire-resiliency program, which proactively reduces wildfire threats through grid-hardening and fuels-reduction project funding.”

PSPS will only be considered when and where the risk of a fire is extreme, and we will notify customers before de-energizing. Make sure your business’s contact information is up to date with Avista so we can reach you about potential outages.

“We applaud Avista’s proactive approach to mitigating fire risk,” said Tom Jenkins, Cheney Fire Chief and Chair of the Inland Empire Fire Chiefs Association. “By prioritizing safety and preparedness, they have demonstrated a commendable commitment to protecting our communities.”

Read about our plans and how you can be prepared at myavista.com/PSPS or watch our video to learn more.