BPA quickly reroutes power and makes repairs to restore service during heat spell. 

We owe a great deal of thanks to PacifiCorp for helping us through this incident.

Richard Shaheen, senior vice president of Transmission Services
The Bonneville Power Administration has gone to great lengths over the past few years to develop wildfire mitigation strategies and measures. Transmission operators expect wildfires to threaten their lines, but Monday, Aug. 29, around 7:00 p.m., a different kind of fire damaged multiple BPA structures on the Midway–Grandview 115-kilovolt line near Grandview, Washington.

The culprit? Five-thousand wooden apple crates that burst into flames. The blaze quickly spread, causing damage to several of BPA’s wood pole structures. Fortunately, firefighters were able to put out the fire before it did more harm, but the damage led to BPA losing service to about 74 megawatts of load in the area.  

“This fire grew very quickly,” said Transmission Field Services Vice President John Lahti. “Transmission was able to redirect power and get the lights back on – but some people in the area were in the dark for about 90 minutes.”

As soon as it was safe to do so, BPA’s crews assessed the damage and devised a plan for repairs. They removed about three feet of burnt debris before replacing a two-pole structure and splicing three parted conductors. 

With the line out of service and temperatures forecast to be around 100 degrees late Tuesday afternoon, it was unclear whether BPA’s system could support the expected load. BPA did not want to rush repairs to ensure line crew safety, so executives and field staff needed to look for ways to extend the work window. 

“We realized very quickly that without that line we would reach our system limits, so we had to figure out an alternative way to continue to serve the load in the area,” said Michelle Cathcart, vice president of Transmission System Operations. 

A quick-thinking engineer in System Operations, Audrey Stevenson, identified a plan to shift some of the BPA load to PacifiCorp’s system. This relieved the pressure and gave crews more breathing room to make repairs to the Midway–Grandview line. 

“We owe a great deal of thanks to PacifiCorp for helping us through this incident,” said Richard Shaheen, senior vice president of Transmission Services. “Giving our crew time to make the repairs was a great benefit to BPA.”

Crews completed the work on the line at 3:35 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 30. In less than 24 hours, BPA restored the system to full strength to keep the lights on. 

“This was an all hands cooperative effort, and we appreciate everyone’s help to get through it,” said Shaheen.

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