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eNews: Vegetation Management Combats Wildfire Damage

(gentle guitar music) (chattering on radio) – [Jordan] Wildfire season is a harsh but unavoidable
reality in Idaho. Every summer, fires
like this one, which came dangerously close to the Midpoint Substation
north of Twin Falls, burn thousands of acres throughout Idaho
Power’s service area. (chattering on radio) Wooden power poles might
seem like an easy target for a blazing wildfire. But thanks to Idaho Power’s
Vegetation Management program countless poles are saved
from destruction each year. – There’s a variety
of things we do. The Vegetation
Management has a program that we initiated
about 15 years ago called Pull-Clearing, where we remove brush
around our wood structures on our transmission lines
that run through the desert and we put down a chemical
that is a sterilant that will limit the amount
of regrowth that occurs. And that lasts about 10 years. – [Jordan] Vegetation Management is one of several
strategies Idaho Power uses to prevent infrastructure
loss during the fire season. Additional options
include protecting poles with fire resistant
paint and metal collars, or upgrading to
metal structures, but pole clearing is the
most cost effective method. So how well does it work? According to Line
Patrolman Jack Porter the difference is night and day. – We used to lose
about eight outta 10 and now we lose
about one outta 20. – [Cameraman]
That’s pretty good. – Pretty amazing, yeah. – [Jordan] The Antelope
fire near Midpoint burned more than 30,000 acres, but thanks to Idaho Power’s
preventative measures, and the efforts of
fire fighting crews, damage was limited to
just a few structures. – So it’s been a few
weeks since the fire, but you can see because
of the treatment that was done on the
ground around the pole, that this pole behind me, and hundreds of
others down the line, were not burned in the fire. – [Jordan] Beyond
the obvious cost of replacing burned poles, preventing fire damage
has a surplus of benefits for Idaho Power, it’s
customers, and the environment. – Preventing fire damage, of course there’s the
capital cost to replace them, but in addition
it’s a safety issue, because one pole goes down it could lead to more
wires on the ground. And so there’s safety, that’s
the reliability, the outage, and also when we come
in to replace structures the heavy equipment we bring in does impact the environment, so we save that as well. – [Jordan] Wildfires
are unpredictable, but with smart planning
and preparation Idaho Power is doing it’s
part to keep it’s lines up and customers’ lights on,
during the heat of fire season. With Photographer Lon Ben Wyke this is Jordan Rodriguez
reporting for E News. (gentle piano music)

  • On the Steps of Idaho where I live we get fires all the time that my sister inlaw almost lost her farm. the 60 year old Sun Valley Skidmite Line was so outdated the poles caught fire every fire season that they had to be upgraded to metal. The test came when an arsonist set fire to the brush near Gooding and the poles and my sister inlaws farm were spared.

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