In the community, Local government

Idaho Power sets public meetings on emergency power shutoff procedures

ONTARIO – Idaho Power is conducting public meetings in Malheur County to outline a change in how it will evaluate a decision to shut off power to residents during periods of high wildfire risk.

The company recently updated its local map of high-risk fire areas and the procedures it will use to trigger a public safety power shutoff.

A public meeting on the issue was held Thursday, May 16, at the Nyssa School District building. Another meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, in Juntura.

A public safety power shutoff can occur anywhere but is especially crucial for high-risk wildfire zones when weather factors are present such as extended dry conditions, high temperatures and high winds. If weather conditions worsen, especially with high winds, Idaho Power can opt to shut down power to area residents to avoid igniting a wildfire.

Idaho Power supplies more than 24,000 customers in eastern Oregon.

 “The expansion of the (wildfire) zones was a combination of drought conditions and state regulations utilities work under in Oregon,” said Angelique Rood, regional manager for Idaho Power.

Rood said the fire plan was expanded after Idaho Power found lower areas of elevation in the county presented “a higher wildfire risk then we previously identified.”

“Historically wildfire risk zones have been in higher elevation zones. In recent years we found that lower elevation areas are also a wildfire risk,” said Rood.

Idaho Power’s areas of high wildfire risk include two zones near Vale, one each in Jordan Valley, Juntura and Adrian.

Rood emphasized a public power shut off is not only very rare but unlikely.

“We’d only use a public power shut off in extreme weather as a last option, meaning if we have high, dry vegetation, low humidity, high temperatures and high wind speeds,” said Rood.

Rood said the company considers high winds” as those exceeding 50 mph.

“In our Oregon service area territory, we start monitoring when wind speeds are forecast at more than 50 miles per hour,” said Rood.

Rood said Idaho Power customers will be notified early if there is a possibility weather conditions may trigger a power shut off.

“I think we’ve learned that early and frequent communication is extremely important so that customers are prepared for a potential outage,” said Rood.

Rood said the company will “communicate through our public safety partners at least two days in advance.”

“Realistically, as a customer, you would get your first notification well over 24 hours and as we track weather conditions, we’d continue to provide updates,” said Rood.

Rood said Idaho Power customers would be warned through a phone call, cell phone text and email.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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