Ask Bob – August 2023

Bob Pierce headshot

Bob Pierce answers questions about energy efficiency, consumer products, and cooperative governance. He is Clearwater Power’s Chief Operating Officer and welcomes your questions on our Ask Bob page.

Why do I seem to be experiencing more outages during this time of year?

During fire season, members are more likely to experience power outages due to extra precautions taken to protect against wildfires. Adobe Stock Photo by Victoria

Living in rural, timbered areas, wind and other forces can cause branches to contact power lines. Often, this will cause a blink in electric service. However, during fire season—June 1 to October 1— members may experience a power outage rather than a blink.

When fire danger is high, we adjust the settings of our reclosers. It is a precaution we take to minimize the probability of igniting a wildfire and is part of our robust Wildfire Mitigation Plan.

Reclosers are electric switches on our power lines that function similar to circuit breakers in your home. When a household breaker trips, it will remain off until it is manually reset.

Under normal settings, our reclosers will test the line. If the problem was only temporary—such as a branch or other item causing a fault and then falling clear of the line—the recloser will automatically close and powerwill remain on with members experiencing only a blink in power.

However, in high fire risk areas, when we are taking extra precautions to minimize the chances of wildfire, we operate power lines in non-reclose mode. In non-reclose mode, a fault like a branch in the line can cause the recloser to open. The power stays off until a lineworker patrols the line for any possible hazards before manually turning the power back on.

This increases the number of outages and length of outages, but significantly reduces the chance of igniting a wildfire. We hope our members understand the benefits of reducing fire risk outweigh the increase in outages.

Did you know Clearwater Power maintains nearly 3,000 miles of line and more than 10,000 acres of rights of-way? Our Wildfire Mitigation Plan is nearly 60 pages.