Keeping the lights on safely and reliably is at the heart of what we do. The power that flows into our customers’ homes travels a long way, often through remote and densely forested areas. With the threat of wildfire increasing in recent years, we have strengthened our efforts to keep our infrastructure and communities safe.
Last year, Avista announced our enhanced 10-year Wildfire Resiliency Plan to reduce the potential for wildfires in our region. We have made significant progress by increasing vegetation management around power lines and improving our fire risk assessment tools.
One of the biggest parts of the plan involves strengthening our infrastructure. Since 2006, Avista has used steel when replacing or building new transmission. With the Wildfire Resiliency program, we are accelerating that change out of wood transmission poles to steel and prioritizing areas that are in the highest fire risk.
We looked at our system within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), where densely forested areas also have a high number of people and homes. The Addy – Gifford Transmission Line quickly moved to the top of the list. The 21-mile line was originally built in the 1950s and upgraded in the 1980s.
Many of the wooden structures are original and are now being replaced with self-weathering steel poles. All distribution poles and lines that are under the transmission are also seeing upgrades, including new fiberglass crossarms, insulators and fire-retardant mesh wraps.
“What’s really unique about this project is the specialized equipment needed to work the line while it’s energized,” said Bryan Hyde, Avista transmission design engineer.
The work started in July and is expected to continue until early November. Just three, 6-hour power outages were needed to complete everything safely. During these outages, crews erected critical corner poles very close to the existing, energized wires. Handling the poles and wires in these tight spaces is dangerous without an outage. Great effort was taken to keep the outages to only three Saturdays this fall to have the least impact on local schools, businesses, churches and health clinics.
This year, we expect to finish nine miles of the transmission line with work continuing in 2022.
Avista is committed to doing our part to keep people and property safe.