PGE, Pacific Power, and EWEB shut down service as weekend winds are expected to grow the Cedar Creek fire burning across Deschutes and Lane County.
Three Oregon utilities have announced plans to shut off electricity amid extreme fire danger throughout the western part of the state.
Portland General Electric shut down power to customers from the Columbia Gorge to Silver Falls Friday, and announced plans to shut off power to some Portland customers later in the morning. Pacific Power announced plans to shut off power to customers in Douglas, Linn, Marion, Lincoln and Polk County Friday morning. The Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) announced Thursday it would shut down service to 3,000 customers in the McKenzie Valley between Oak Point up to Vida and down to Walterville from 5 p.m. Friday through Saturday evening.
The moves come as the Cedar Creek fire, sparked by lightning about five weeks ago near Oakridge, is expected to gain momentum from due to windy, dry conditions. Emergency officials have issued a red flag warning due to predicted 40- to 50 mile-per-hour winds in the Cascades and 10- to 25-mile-per-hour winds in the Willamette Valley.
High winds can cause power lines to break, sparking or worsening wildfires. At least 13 of the blazes that fed 2020’s Beachie Creek Fire were caused by downed power lines; so was last year’s Dixie Creek Fire in California.
The California utility Pacific Gas & Electric has faced criticism and criminal charges for its role in recent large fires, and has begun burying power lines in hope of preventing similar devastation in the future. The project is estimated to cost at least $15 billion.
The red flag warning is currently set to expire by 11 p.m. Saturday. PGE and Pacific Power said they expect to restore power by Saturday evening or by Sunday morning, but added the timeline was subject to changing weather conditions and the amount of damage done to power lines.
“Crews will be standing by, and as weather conditions allow PGE, will begin to physically inspect power lines and equipment and make any repairs necessary to safely restore power,” the utility told Oregonlive. “PGE will provide updates at least every 24 hours until all customers regain power through email, text, social media, press releases, and at portlandgeneral.com.”
The Cedar Creek Fire is one of five major wildfires currently burning across the state and by far the largest, with many nearby areas under evacuation notice.
All three utilities have posted outage maps on their websites:
To subscribe to Oregon Business, click here.