Portland General Electric prepares ahead of wildfire season

Published: May. 3, 2022 at 10:45 PM PDT
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TUALATIN, Ore. (KPTV) – After a record-setting month of rainfall in April, the threat of wildfires might be something placed on the backburner for some, however, Portland General Electric (PGE) is gearing up ahead of wildfire season and putting millions of dollars into fire prevention.

PGE is investing about $32 million dollars into wildfire mitigation. This is all part of the utility’s wildfire mitigation plan which includes vegetation management. B

ill Messner, the director of wildfire mitigation and resiliency at PGE said crews are identifying and removing at-risk trees and branches that could potentially hit a power line and ignite a wildfire.

“It could be a dead or decaying tree that’s what we look for we have certified arborists that look at this and know how to do that part of the business and that’s what they’re looking for,” Messner said. He said crews are also inspecting lines and fixing any equipment that may be broken.

“We do operational changes as well and then our plan we also have outreach in it we talk about a program called Public Safety Power Shutoff which is a last resort item,” he said. A Public Safety Power Shutoff, or PSPS, happens when there is a high risk of fire danger.

“But if the weather is extreme weather, so we have really dry wind, we have low humidity, vegetation moisture contact is really low. How are our agency partners behaving? How are they positioning themselves we will turn off power in those areas so our equipment cannot cause an ignition,” Messner said.

PGE has already identified 10 high fire risk zones that could see their power shut off. The areas include the Southern West Hills, Central West Hills, the Tualatin Mountains, the Portland West Hills, the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon City, the Mt. Hood Corridor, Estacada and Scotts Mills. You can see the map here

“Those are the ones that we have pre-identified and I also want to make it very clear that we’re working with public agencies so if they’ve asked us to turn of power in that event then we will work with them and cooperate with them and figure out how to do that and support them in that event,” Messner said. “So there may be other outages but that would be in cooperation with the fire agencies.”