ID 67499728 © Joshua Rainey |
A utility worker trims a tree as a precautionary measure against wildfires

Five Ways Tucson Electric Power Prepares for Wildfires

June 3, 2020
The utility takes proactive steps throughout the year to ensure safe and reliable service.

While the wildfire season officially starts May 1, wildfire risk mitigation takes place year-round at Tucson Electric Power (TEP).

“TEP allocates resources and actively prepares throughout the year for each season so that we are ready to respond if the need arises,” said Kasy Schug, a certified arborist who has served as the company’s liaison on wildfire response since 2014. “We actively take steps to make sure we are protecting the grid, as well as protecting public safety and property.” 

Here are the utility's top-five risk-mitigation strategies to ensure safe and reliable service for its customers:

5,000 structures and 1,200 miles of power lines: These metrics measure the reach of TEP's annual tree-trimming efforts, which protect its facilities from wildfires and remove fuel that could otherwise feed fires. The utility's team trims back trees around extra-high voltage structures and transmission lines on regular cycles and across a wide range of terrain. 

2,000 ground inspections a year: TEP inspects towers and structures annually to identify equipment in need of repair or to clear of vegetation. Transmission corridors are patrolled twice a year in helicopters to identify potential problems. Drones are used in less-accessible areas. These routine inspections occur before and after wildfire season to ensure all equipment is surveyed at least once every five years and that every extra-high-voltage equipment is reviewed annually.

40 pre-season coordination engagements: TEP works closely with state, federal, tribal and local agencies as well as private landowners to coordinate wildfire response and preparations. The utility discusses where to best focus resources and the steps taken to actively manage fires. TEP has engaged more than 40 experts and representatives prior to the start of the season.

5-10 miles away from fires, on average: Although TEP employees review state wildfire forecasts, pore through historical data and use multiple expert sources to identify potential threats, the utility is looking at 2020 differently, Kasy said. "There are more people out in nature because of the sheltering orders, but there is also a campfire ban and social distancing implications, so we are unsure of the real impact, if any, this year," he said. In 2019, for example, campfires had resulted in a couple of fires in April. On average, 10 to 15 fires occur within 5-10 miles of TEP facilities each year

Up to 4 emergency response operations a year: When wildfires approach company assets, TEP stations employees at incident command sites to coordinate with firefighting agencies. That typically happens three or four times annually.

Visit the TEP website for more information about its wildfire preparedness.

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