During the second quarter of 2023, unprecedented wildfires in central and northern Alberta forced thousands of Albertans to evacuate their homes.
There have been more than 930 reported wildfires in Alberta in 2023, with more than 19,400 square km burned. While first responders fought to bring the fires under control, AltaLink activated its emergency response plan and mobilized a large team to safely begin the restoration of significant damage to its transmission system.
Wildfires in May and June damaged 12 AltaLink transmission lines, requiring the repair or replacement of 243 structures across its service territory.
“This spring, AltaLink took on the largest restoration effort in our history to get the transmission system back up and running following the devastating wildfires,” said Gary Hart, AltaLink President and Chief Executive Officer. “During the peak of our repair work, we had more than 100 workers battling extremely difficult conditions to quickly and safely repair the system and restore power to our customers.”
AltaLink restored service to all customers by July 3, 2023.
“I’m incredibly proud of the team that worked tirelessly to restore the transmission system. I want to thank them and all those who worked to bring these fires under control, protecting Albertan lives, homes and businesses,” said Mr. Hart.
In response to the increase in extreme weather and the severity of wildfire activity in Alberta, AltaLink notified the Alberta Utilities Commission in July that it intends to file an amendment to its wildfire program that was included in its 2024-2025 General Tariff Application.
“We believe the risk of wildfire and the severity of the consequences for Albertans is increasing with the extreme weather conditions we’ve experienced,” said Mr. Hart. “We need to address this growing challenge.”
AltaLink said it is committed to managing its transmission system in a safe and cost-effective manner. AltaLink is planning to continue the implementation of its wildfire mitigation plan to manage the increased risk to public safety and the environment from identified wildfire ignition risks.
In 2019, AltaLink became the first utility in Alberta to have a wildfire mitigation plan. Two years later, AltaLink partnered with Electricity Canada to develop and publish a best practices guide for utilities on mitigating wildfire risk and promoting industry resilience.