Northern California fire threatens major power lines

Northern California fire threatens major power lines

28 July 2006

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About 10 percent has been contained of the Lakin Wildland fire in northern California that threatens a few major power transmission lines from the Pacific Northwest to California, Federal officials said late Thursday.

The fire caused by a lightning strike on July 26 was located about 26 miles northeast of McCloud, California, between two major 500-kilovolt transmission corridors.

Even if the fire spreads and one or all three of the transmission lines must shut, it would probably not disrupt electricity delivery in California, officials at the California Independent System Operator (ISO), the power grid operator, said Thursday.

The ISO said it could reroute the flow of electricity.

Earlier this week, a killer heat wave strained the California power grid, causing record electricity usage.

Local and Federal firefighters are battling a number of blazes in northern California, but are treating this fire as the highest priority because it threatens the power lines, Joe Millar, U.S. Forestry Service Fire Chief, said Thursday.

In a report late Thursday morning, the U.S. Forest Service for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest said the fire was about 340 acres in size and burning in an area covered by timber and manzanita brush. Earlier that day, the fire had covered about 400 acres.

The report said the Forest Service, which has about 258 people working on the blaze, expected to contain it by 6 p.m. local time on July 31.

The Forest Service said it used air tankers and helicopters to help slow the fire’s progress and would continue to need the air support in the future. 

The Forest Service noted in the report however that southwest winds would continue to push the fire toward the northeast and the California-Oregon Transmission Project power lines.

Officials at the ISO said late Thursday they had no official details about the fire, but had been told that the winds Thursday were not as strong as had initially been forecast and the fire did not spread, as much has been feared.

Officials at the Forest Service and the ISO were not immediately available Friday morning to comment on the fire.


Whether the lines have to shut depends on how winds and debris affect the fires.

Two of the big power lines are about three quarters of mile to the east of the fire and a third is about a half a mile to the west.

The lines may have to shut if firefighters need to get close or if fire retardant is dropped on the blaze by plane, said LaVerne Kyriss, spokeswoman for the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), which owns one of the lines.

In addition, fires can cause arcing of the power lines, which can disrupt power flows.

The lines are all alternate-current (AC) and mostly carry power generated by hydroelectric plants in the Pacific Northwest. Two are part of the Pacific Intertie AC system. WAPA owns the other line called the California-Oregon Transmission Project.


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