Pacific Power, Portland General Electric share how people can prepare for wildfire season

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 6:35 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Just a few days into May and the Estacada Fire District is already out responding to a fire, a reminder that wildfire season is around the corner.

It’s also almost been three years since the Riverside Fire destroyed homes a few miles away in Dodge, including Kelly Olsen’s log cabin she and her husband built from the ground up.

“Nothing standing except for the implement building out in the back and I don’t know how it lasted. We had nothing left, couldn’t find anything in the house that was salvageable,” Olsen said.

One of the only other things that survived the flames was a birdhouse. Now she’s rebuilding her house in the same spot with some extra protections.

“In the log home we didn’t have a sprinkler system but I think they’re requiring us now to have one,” she said.

As she rebuilds, local power companies are asking people to prepare for wildfire season now, whether that means getting a generator or making an outage kit equipped with flashlights and chargers.

Olsen also suggests packing up important documents.

SEE ALSO: Expected heat, wind triggers temporary burn restrictions for greater Portland area

“Have your important papers and all of that in a box ready to take. We had ours in a safe,” Olsen said. “They aren’t fire safe.. ours burnt so hot we lost all of that,” she said.

Pacific Power and Portland General Electric say they prepare year-round.

Pacificorp’s Meteorology Manager, Steven Vanderburg, said they have a lot of tools, like in-house forecasting, that helps them stay ahead of fire conditions allowing them to know where winds are going to be especially strong or where vegetation will be dry.

They also take historical outage data to see which areas are most at risk for outages and determine whether a public safety power shutoff would be necessary.

“Using these kinds of tools, we can then see ahead of time where the weather can be conducive for wildfires, where it’s going to cause an increase in fire danger but also where there’s an increased risk of outages and those are the locations where we will then take additional steps to then mitigate that wildfire risk,” Vanderburg said.

This option is one Olsen and some of her neighbors aren’t fond of, given they rely on electricity for their water supply.

SEE ALSO: New Oregon bill restricts insurance companies from using wildfire risk map

“Here because everyone’s on wells, then they’re going to be shutting off our resource to get our water. If we have a chance to spray it down or whatever, we have no chance if we have no electricity,” Olsen said.

Not to mention she said the sprinkler system she was required to add onto her house needs electricity too.

“We have to have a sprinkler system in there but, again, if we have no electricity, that isn’t going to work,” she said.

If you want to learn more about how to prepare by going to the Oregon Wildfire Response & Recovery website.

You can also learn more about how Pacific Power and Portland General Electric are preparing by going to their websites.