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Fire-Related Outages Could Increase in Pacific Northwest

Thousands of people lost power last week along the Yakima River as a result of the Pacific Power company turning off power lines threatened by wildfires.

Washington (4)5
(TNS) - When a fire burned along the east side of the Yakima River last week, about thousands people in the Yakima, Wash., area lost power.

It was not a result of power damage, but a Pacific Power policy to turn off power lines that are threatened by wildfires for safety reasons.

A utility company spokesperson said such outages will likely become more common due to the increased dangers of wildfires.

Firefighters from East Valley and other departments were battling a fire in the 1300 block of Marsh Road the afternoon of May 30 when power across Yakima was knocked out, leaving customers without service, according to Pacific Power's outage website.

The utility fully restored power to all customers within four hours, said Pacific Power spokesperson Pampi Chowdhury.

In an email in response to a request for comment, Chowdhury said the outage was the result of a policy to "de-energize" power lines if a wildfire is deemed to be burning too close to lines or other power equipment.

Selah Fire Department issued a statement saying the power outage was because of Pacific Power's safety policy, not because the fire burned through poles or lines.

While it is not a new policy, Chowdhury said residents can expect to see more outages as wildfire risks increase.

When the power was turned off during the Marsh Road fire, people going to Pacific Power's website were only told that the utility was "investigating" the cause of the blackout. Chowdhury said the shutdowns sometimes have to be done so quickly that it cannot get word out in advance, and that it would update the outage maps.

People should make sure their account information is up to date to receive outage alerts and updates. Sign into your Pacific Power account online or call 1-888-221-7070.

Residents also are encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts through Yakima County Emergency Management at Alerts are available in English and Spanish.

Reach Donald W. Meyers at


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