Operational and situational awareness on wildfire conditions helps us make critical decisions more quickly and effectively, and advanced technology can now be utilized to support these efforts. From using artificial intelligence that can detect wildfires, to using advanced risk modeling software to understand local wildfire threat conditions, innovations in technology is enhancing the way we operate our system to reduce wildfire risk and respond to fire events.

Early Wildfire Detection Cameras

We are currently piloting and evaluating the functionality of new artificial intelligence (AI) wildfire cameras and considering how best to expand their use. This technology utilizes panoramic, 360-degree camera networks enhanced with AI to detect the presence of smoke. AI algorithms, coupled with 24/7 human monitoring, provide near real-time awareness and alerts of potential wildfires and enable notifications to fire protection agencies and first responders. While this is an emerging technology, we’re looking for innovative ways to partner with communities and other utilities to leverage the full benefits of a camera network to detect wildfires at the earliest stage possible.

Risk Modeling

To prioritize and target wildfire mitigation efforts, we’re continually improving our wildfire risk modeling and evaluating new information to further refine Wildfire Risk Zones. Our latest wildfire risk modeling software uses advanced fire spread modeling algorithms and dynamic weather data to enhance wildfire risk identification and estimate more accurate potential consequence estimates. Each day, the software evaluates current and forecasted weather conditions, detailed wind speed/direction, moisture levels and ground fuel conditions to estimate the direction and extent of where a wildfire might spread if an ignition were to occur. This risk modeling and simulation also provides valuable insights on the potential consequences of wildfires as fire weather conditions dynamically change.

Wildfire Safety Settings

Our Wildfire Safety Settings program is one tool used to operate our system more conservatively in areas with increased wildfire risk. In this program, the sensitivity settings on powerline protection equipment are increased when current weather conditions create an elevated risk of wildfire.

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

Currently, 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

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

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 Wildfire Risk Zones
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 report.

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