Snohomish County PUD takes risk of wildfires seriously. You should, too.

Already this summer, wildfires have burned acres of timber in Spokane, Yakima, Chelan and British Columbia.

  • Wednesday, July 10, 2024 1:30am
  • Life

By Snohomish County PUD

The climate in our region is changing. Threats that we never used to be concerned about on the west side of the Cascade Mountains are now something we must plan for in advance, including drought conditions, extreme heat events and more severe storms.

One of the most significant of those threats is wildfires.

Two summers ago, the Bolt Creek fire burned more than 10,000 acres in east Snohomish County, closing U.S. 2 and threatening homes and businesses. The fire was a wake-up call for west-side communities and brought the wildfire threat to our doorstep.

Already this summer, we’re seeing the headlines as wildfires have burned acres of timber in the Northwest, including in Spokane, Yakima, Chelan and British Columbia.

So how has the PUD responded to this new threat? The PUD is working to reduce the risk of utility-caused wildfires in high-risk areas in several ways, including:

Targeted tree trimming

In an effort to protect infrastructure near wildfire-vulnerable areas, PUD tree trimming crews will focus their efforts this summer on tree, limb and brush removal near power lines in the Darrington, Gold Bar and Index areas.

Grid hardening

Made possible by a $30 million Department of Energy grant, the PUD’s SnoSMART project will install wireless smart grid devices on the grid to give PUD system operators more control over equipment in the field.

Initiate ‘fire settings’

If our region activates high fire precautions, the PUD will initiate “fire settings” on circuits identified to be in high ignition areas such as Darrington and Gold Bar. These settings minimize the chance of wires being energized if they’ve fallen.

Crew safety

When working in areas identified as high-ignition risk, PUD crews will use electric chainsaws instead of gas-powered to minimize sparks. They will also be outfitted with water tanks and hoses.

Utilities across the nation are working to minimize the wildfire threat, but there are a number of things that homeowners and business owners can do to help. According to the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, these tips will help you prepare you for wildfire season:

• First, sign up for SnoCo Alerts on the SnoCo DEM website to ensure you’re informed. Also, get to know Ready, Set, Go! evacuation guidance so you know what to do if you receive an alert.

• Make your home fire safe by maintaining an area approximately 30 feet from your home that is free of things that will burn, including wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers and other brush.

• Prepare for possible smoky conditions. Purchase an air purifier that can filter out smoke particles, change the filter on your air conditioner when needed and make plans to stay indoors if air quality decreases.

• Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries and first aid supplies. Also familiarize yourself with local emergency plans.

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