Operational and Situational Awareness helps us make critical decisions more quickly and effectively. These include specific protocols for periods of high wildfire risk, such as “Red Flag Warning” days in high-wind conditions. We also monitor the National Fire Danger Ratings to understand local threat conditions and appropriate actions to deal with them. We use that information to operate our system to reduce wildfire risk and effectively respond to fire events.

We are constantly investing in our electric infrastructure and exploring ways to improve reliability, safety and affordability. In this evolving effort, new technology plays a key role in our new wildfire standards. These include devices that control the flow of electricity: relays, reclosers, fuses, cutouts and arrestors.

Wildfire Safety Settings

The Wildfire Safety Settings program is one of the tools we use to operate our system more conservatively in areas of high risk of wildfires. In this program, we enable more sensitive settings on powerline protective equipment when wildfire risk is elevated.

How it works: Our distribution system is monitored 24/7 by both technology and people. In targeted areas, we have added special sensing equipment that interrupts the flow of energy to a line segment when it detects a significant issue, such as a tree branch contacting a power line or lines galloping during high winds.

On standard settings, reclosers will test the line to see if the fault is still present – for example, a branch touches a wire and then falls to the ground. In those cases, the recloser resets the circuit breaker to start electricity flowing again. Momentary outages – when your power goes off for a few seconds – are a sign that the system is working the way it is supposed to.

With enhanced safety settings, the line stays de-energized until crews can patrol the area to ensure it’s safe to restore service. This approach helps keep our communities safe, but although we do our best to minimize impacts, some customers may experience more frequent or longer outages.

Read the Wildfire Safety Settings information sheet for more details and answers to frequently asked questions.

As of Fall 2022, the program is active in select areas in and around the Colorado communities of:

  • Alma
  • Blue River
  • Boulder
  • Breckenridge
  • De Beque
  • Evergreen
  • Fairplay
  • Golden
  • Jamestown
  • Kittredge
  • Longmont
  • Mesa
  • Palisade

Risk Model Enhancements

We’ve developed a Wildfire Risk Model to analyze our risk, inform the Wildfire Mitigation Plan, define our Wildfire Risk Zones and estimate the potential impact of wildfire within our service territory. As more data and information becomes available, the model will be updated to reflect our current understanding.

Work Completed and Planned

Identified need for additional reclosers

Enhanced risk and wildfire spread modeling

Investigated additional Transmission Assessments including conductor analysis, climbing and drones

Accelerated and enhanced vegetation inspections, wind strength modeling programs, and asset data gathering
Initiated Wildfire Safety Settings

Development of Public Safety Power Shut-off program

Continued aerial and visual inspections of Transmission and Distribution lines in the wildfire zone
Repair and replacement of Distribution system equipment identified through accelerated aerial inspections

Repaired or replaced over 550 Transmission system priority defects

Upgraded fuses and lightning arrestors

Installed 31 substation protection relays and distribution reclosures

Initiated wire replacement initiatives

Expanded vegetation management actions
Ongoing repair and replacement of urgent defects

Continued upgrade to Wildfire Standard equipment

Continued vegetation management of Transmission and Distribution lines
Performed a distribution feeder protection study

Initiated substation relay upgrades

Performed a wind strength analysis of transmission and distribution structures

Implemented “Wildfire Mode” on reclosure equipment in pilot feeders within the Wildfire Risk Zones to prevent potential incidents

Develop and consider alternative operating protocols in high-risk areas to reduce wildfire risk under certain conditions

Initiated fire-safe work practices within the Wildfire Risk Zones
Enhance system protection using Advanced Distribution Management System’s operational capabilities

Improve response protocols

Continue to facilitate Fire Prevention, Wires Down, Ignition Reporting, and Wildfire Equipment and Standards training

Expand feeders with “Wildfire Mode” on reclosure equipment

Expand weather station and 360-degree camera networks for enhanced real-time awareness of wildfire risk

Deploy new software to model and forecast wildfire risk and fire behavior, using specific locations and conditions

Read more in our Annual Reports to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.