PSE could shut off power lines in WA areas with high wildfire risk

As wildfire season approaches in western Washington, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) says it has a plan in place to ensure the safety of communities with high-risk wildfire conditions.

The utility says this fire season, they may use a tool to temporarily shut off power lines to help prevent wildfires from starting. It's called a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), with PSE calling it a measure of last resort.

Here's how it works. First, PSE will contact customers who could be affected by a future power shutoff. If the wildfire danger is high enough, PSE will send out an alert and shut down power lines in the high-risk area. Once weather conditions normalize, PSE crews will go to the outage area and check power lines for any damage or safety concerns before restoring power.

After a PSPS, it could take several days to restore power in an impacted area, especially if there is extensive damage to power lines, poor visibility, or nearby fires.

PSPS could be used anywhere in PSE’s service area if weather conditions are worse enough. Usually, this is a combination of strong winds, very dry vegetation, and low humidity.

An emergency power shutoff will likely come after close monitoring of the forecast in high-risk areas, with the goal of notifying customers at least two days in advance.

In 2022, PSE and several other Pacific Northwest energy companies significantly increased spending on wildfire mitigation. Five utilities submitted plans to prevent power lines from sparking wildfires, with PSE focusing more on Cle Elum in Kittitas County.


Electric utilities spending millions to lower wildfire risk

Private electric utilities in the Pacific Northwest are planning tens of millions of dollars in upgrades to reduce the risk that their power lines could spark wildfires during extreme weather.

For more information about Public Safety Power Shutoffs, visit the PSE website.


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