New rules implemented to alert communities about wildfire power shutoffs

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:03 PM PDT
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WELCHES Ore. (KPTV) - The Oregon Public Utility Commission says it has implemented new communication requirements when power will be shutoff to communities due to high fire danger.

With the wet and cool spring Portland has experienced, it’s hard to remember that fire season isn’t far off. But, this announcement comes during National Wildfire Awareness Month, which is during the month of May.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission says a public safety power shutoff is a necessary tool to mitigate wildfires. They also acknowledge that comes at a cost to the community.

George Wilson is the owner of Mt. Hood Bicycle in Welches and knows that first-hand.

“It’s not a good place to be when you’re trying to earn a living,” he said.

Wilson was working and living in Welches when the community lost power for a week as historic wildfires raged across the state. For him, it meant that his business could operate with cash-only transaction and there was no security.

“We have nothing, no alarms. I had to sleep on the floor here, I’ve been broken into three times in four years, so if I hadn’t been here, absolutely I would have been broken into again,” Wilson said.

If someone doesn’t have a generator, a power shutoff means folks living in these communities can’t run heat or draw water from their wells.

“If you don’t have a generator up here, and most people they’re here one year before they really learn that lesson, but yeah, we have to have generators especially if it’s anything more than a day or two,” said Wilson.

The new requirements from the public utility commission say that utilities have to inform the public if they plan to shutoff power and provide updates every 24 hours.

Wilson said with the way wildfires have been in recent years, he expects to receive more of these notices.

“I’ve received some emails saying that they’re getting ready to potentially shut our power off depending on our fire danger, so I have no doubt that we’re going to be dealing with that again this year,” he said.