TEP: Wildfires still a concern

TEP: Wildfires are still a concern

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - While California plans to shut off power to 900,000 customers to avoid a possible devastating forest fires, Tucson Electric Power is staying the course.

That means TEP won’t do anything different than it does for any fire season.

California experienced some of its most damaging forest fires last year, especially the Camp Fire which did an estimated $16.4 billion in damage and claimed 86 lives.

That fire in Northern California was started by a utility, Pacific Gas and Electric. It’s also accused of starting other, smaller fires.

The utility has been accused of not keeping its equipment maintained and vegetation cut nearby.

The voluntary shut down, which could last several days, is hoped to keep the deteriorating weather conditions from fanning the flames if a fire accidentally gets ignited.

While the situation is different in Tucson, TEP is acutely aware of how easy a fire can get out of hand.

That’s why it has a rigorous inspection program for its 5,000 miles of transmission line.

While much of it is in the desert, some of it also stretches into the forests in Northeastern Arizona.

“We will inspect our equipment twice a year using a helicopter,” said Joe Barrios, a spokesman for the utility. “We’ll actually fly the transmission line routes.”

But he adds, that’s standard operating procedure, not just during fire season.

The TEP coverage area extends 11,000 square miles, about the size of Maryland.

That’s why ground inspections happen once every five years.

“We’ll take a look at growth around the facilities and if there’s any sort of vegetation management required, we’ll do that,” Barrios said.

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