A plume of smoke covered Beacon Hill in east Spokane the week of June 16 as a fire roared through the area. The raging inferno destroyed trees, buildings and electrical infrastructure, and Avista crews were standing by waiting for firefighters to give the green light so they could safely move in and repair damaged transmission poles.
“It’s hard to watch the fire destroy our infrastructure knowing there’s nothing we can do until it’s contained,” said Kelley Hendry, Avista electric foremen.
Two days later, crews were finally able to enter the Beacon Hill transmission corridor to assess the infrastructure damage and begin repairs. “The ground was covered in ash and every time you took a step a cloud of soot and dust trailed behind,” said Hendry. “We’re used to working in extreme weather conditions but a fire brings a whole new element.”
Crews rely heavily on countless hours of training to prepare for an event such as this. Communicating and coordinating with local agencies and officials is a crucial and an important aspect of their preparation.
A community comes together
At the end of the week it was reported that it took multiple agencies and 87 personnel to bring the fire to a halt. The fire burned 115 acres and resulted in hundreds of evacuations, and destroyed multiple power poles, including eight owned by Avista.
Because of redundancies in Avista’s electrical system, power was rerouted immediately, which minimized impact to our customers.
Opportunity for upgrades
Any time wood pole infrastructure is compromised during a fire, we take the opportunity to replace it with a steel structure. The steel poles are more durable, longer lasting, fire proof and weather proof. Because they are more robust, they require less maintenance, ultimately reducing costs for everyone.
Hendry went on to say, “We thank the firefighters and first responders that risk life and limb to keep everyone safe. Each entity works as one during a devastating event such as this and Avista employees are always prepared to restore power to our customers as quickly and safely as possible.”