Manager’s Message – July 2024

Wildfire season is officially here! While the overwhelming majority of wildfires are human-caused—nearly 90% between 2018 and 2022, according to Congressional Research Service—electric cooperatives recognize they have an important role to play in preventing wildfires.

All of Oregon’s electric cooperatives have board-approved wildfire mitigation plans in place, and we work diligently to implement those plans. Safety—especially when it concerns how we mitigate wildfire—has always been our priority. But it is undeniable that, for a variety of reasons, the threat of wildfire has exponentially increased.

Recently, Oregon co-ops showcased their wildfire mitigation strategy at the invitation of the Oregon Legislature, Oregon Public Utilities Commission and the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association Engineering and Operations conference. It’s a multipronged strategy, including burying power lines where possible, system hardening through more fire-resistant poles, aggressive vegetation management and the use of cutting-edge technology, such as drones, to manage systems.

Just as we’re ready to respond to an emergency, we want our members to be prepared as well. That is why Oregon electric co-ops work with their members to remove trees in accordance with our board-approved vegetation management plan, thus obtaining a more defensible space and supporting local fire and first-responder organizations.

While these are proactive measures, there are still many factors we cannot control. We cannot control where people throw cigarette butts, or how public and private land near our systems are managed. We cannot control when and where people have campfires – which is an increasing contributory factor to wildfires given in the two years following the pandemic, 15 million American went camping for the first time! We cannot control the weather or how long our fire season lasts.

We face more challenges in the space of wildfire mitigation than ever before, with currently 84% of wildland fires in the United States being caused by human activity, including debris/open burning (29%), fireworks (19%), equipment & vehicle use (11%), campfires (5%), and misuse by minors (5%).

We cannot control these factors, but we can all help to educate ourselves and others in our community and those that visit. More than ever before, we are committed to mitigating wildfire and preparing for an event we hope to never see.

On that note, I wish you all a happy and safe Independence Day.

 

Lisa S Atkin

General Manager