Holy Cross Energy takes steps to avoid triggering wildfires in Aspen, valley areas | AspenTimes.com

Holy Cross Energy takes steps to avoid triggering wildfires in Aspen, valley areas

A firefighter walks near damaged power poles in the Lake Christine Fire in July 2018. Holy Cross Energy has taken several steps to increase resiliancy of its system and reduce the risk of the system starting a wildfire.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

With wildfires raging in the region, conditions tinder dry and no relief in sight, Holy Cross Energy is taking steps to reduce the risk of its infrastructure starting or contributing to a wildfire.

The electrical cooperative announced Friday it has “enabled fire protection settings” throughout its system.

In windy conditions, a tree limb can fall and strike a line, producing sparks that trigger a fire. The protection settings are extra insurance to prevent that and other incidents from occurring.

“If something hits it, that line’s going to go dead,” Jenna Weatherred, Holy Cross Energy vice president, member and community relations, said Friday.

An outage will continue until a line crew physically checks the problem area, she said.

The precaution comes at a price. It will increase the possibility of Holy Cross Energy members experiencing temporary “blinks” or outages.

“This action will help further reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of a new fire being started by our electric system,” Bryan Hannegan, HCE president and CEO said in a statement. “Given the dry, windy conditions in our area and the focus of our firefighting community on the Grizzly Creek Fire, we felt it prudent to move to our fire protection settings 24/7 even though our members may see more service disruption as a result.”

Weatherred said HCE wanted to alert members about the possibility of blinks and outages and allay fears that they are related to the Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon.

At the time of the Lake Christine Fire in July 2018, there was extensive damage to power poles in the Basalt and El Jebel area. There was a threat that power was going to be lost in Aspen and other parts of the valley for an extended time, but disaster was averted.

After that fire, HCE invested in additional fire mitigation and system resilience efforts throughout its territory, which stretches from Vail to Parachute and in the Roaring Fork and Crystal valleys.

Holy Cross urges members to download the SmartHub app on their mobile devices so they can be alerted via text or email when an outage occurs. There also is an outage map and the full wildfire mitigation plan on the power provider’s website at holycross.com.