Lane Electric Cooperative’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan
The co-op works year-round to prevent and limit wildfire damage
By April Matson
To prepare for the wildfires that have become a bigger part of summers in the West, Lane Electric developed a wildfire mitigation plan to ensure the safety of local communities, minimize sources of ignition and improve system resiliency.
Lane Electric’s plan centers around three main categories:
Maintaining power line rights-of-way is a necessary function of delivering electric services to local communities. It is also the most important step in minimizing sources of potential wildfire ignition.
Hardening the System
The co-op began moving lines underground in 1990 and has continued to bury power lines to protect from wind, wildfires and weather. In some parts of the system, the cooperative is looking to implement an aerial cable system to strengthen and insulate lines.
Public Safety Power Shutoff
A Public Safety Power Shutoff is a preventative step electric utilities can take to reduce the risk of sparking a wildfire.
A PSPS could be triggered when on-the-ground factors and weather conditions create an extreme wildfire risk that could threaten lives and lead to catastrophic damage.
The decision to call for a PSPS is partly based on red-flag warnings issued by the National Weather Service. Lane Electric also will consider current and forecast weather conditions, real-time observation from on-the-ground experts, and input from local public safety and health agencies.
The cooperative works with experts to zero in on priority areas to deploy new equipment and apply for grants to expedite the process. This effort will evolve during the coming weeks, months and years.
Wildfire Town Hall Meetings
Lane Electric held four town hall meetings from July 15 to August 1 to share details about the cooperative’s wildfire mitigation plan and answer questions from members.
The following is a brief overview of some questions raised by members. For the full summary—and to view the cooperative’s wildfire mitigation plan—visit our Wildfire Prep page.
What are the indicators that a red-flag warning could be issued?
The best way to keep informed of potential red-flag warnings is by keeping an eye on local weather forecasts and signing up for alerts. Before a red-flag warning, the National Weather Service issues a fire weather watch. This notifies fire departments of the possible onset of critical weather and dry conditions that could increase wildfire activity. A red-flag warning is the next alert, which indicates weather events that may result in extreme fire behavior within a 24- hour period.
Will I lose power when a red-flag warning is issued?
When the National Weather Service issues a red flag warning, Lane Electric sets its equipment to automatic shut off. This makes equipment more sensitive and means lines will not automatically re-energize as they would during normal operation. This greatly reduces chances of sparking dry fuel and is a common step in fire mitigation efforts. It also means it is more likely for an outage to occur without warning. It is important to note that this differs from a Public Safety Power Shutoff.
How will I be communicated with if a PSPS is issued?
Lane Electric will use all communication channels available to the co-op to notify members. This includes outbound calls, social media updates, media advisories, website banners and alerts.
Now is a good time to ensure your contact information is listed on your Lane Electric account. You can update or add additional means of contact via SmartHub or call member services at (541) 484-1151.
Is there a concern about energy backflow when lines are repowered after an outage?
Yes. When power goes out and members use generators, there is a serious risk of the backflow of electricity energizing a line. A family member, community citizen or utility worker touching an energized line could be placed in a deadly situation. It is critical that the proper disconnect switches or a GenerLink are installed on any generator connection. These must be up to electrical code. If you have any questions about connecting a generator to your home, please call (541) 484-1151.
Does a PSPS mean there is a fire? Is it an indication of a need to evacuate?
No. A PSPS is simply a safety step utility companies can take to reduce the risk of fires. For information regarding wildfires and evacuation routes, sign up for emergency alerts from Lane County. Alerts relating to natural disasters and other environmental threats will come from the appropriate emergency responders.