Last month a fire in the Terrace Heights area lead to a major power outage for thousands of people in the upper Yakima Valley. But why did your power go out if you were miles away from the fire? Fire officials say it wasn't because electrical poles burned or other electrical equipment. It's a precaution taken by Pacific Power to prevent more fires.


In other words the company now turns off power in specific areas where a wildfire is "creating safety hazards and an increased risk of additional ignitions when facilities are energized." It's a policy that could save Pacific Power, part of PacifiCorp millions of dollars in the future. On Monday the utility settled a lawsuit for $178 million filed by 400 residents in Oregon, victims of the deadly 2020 wildfires.


Other cases that have gone to trial over the past year have cost the company millions of dollars. In the Monday settlement 403 plaintiffs were impacted by the Echo Mountain Complex Fire that burned on the central coast of Oregon. Others were impacted by the Santiam Fire in northwestern Oregon. In all the suits the plaintiffs say the companies energized assets created an increase in fires.


More lawsuits are in the hopper from dozens of Oregon wineries and vineyards hoping for $100 million in damages. They too allege the company failed to turn off power during a Labor Day windstorm. Winery and Vineyard owners say that failure helped to fuel the blazes that effected grapes leading to a smaller harvest.
So the next time you hear of a big wildfire in the valley and you find yourself miles away but without power you now know it's a policy at Pacific Power that could help reduce the size and impact of wildfires this wildfire season.

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