Wildfire Protection: Utility Installs Fire-Resistant Cable Across Mountainous Territory

March 17, 2020
Bear Valley Electric Service became the first investor-owned utility to install the fire-resistant technology, which can reduce the risk of wildfires during high fire season.

 Bear Valley Electric Service (BVES) in Bear Lake, California, became the first investor-owned utility (IOU) in the nation to install fire-resistant cabling in its territory of electrical service poles in an effort to further protect its residents, land and wildlife from fire destruction. BVES serves a territory, which features historic trees and high-fire-risk mountainous conditions.

“Risk of wildfire is our biggest threat in Southern California and is especially dangerous here in the Bear Valley mountains where we’re surrounded by nature, brush and wildlife," says Eric Cardella, engineering and planning supervisor, BVES. "It’s important to us that we take the measures necessary to protect lives and our land, especially as drought and dryness are expected to continue as a norm across California for years to come." 

As part of the utility’s ongoing fire-hardening strategies, BVES installed the FR 394.5 AAAC 35 kV cable as a pilot last fall. All conductor in BVES service territory will eventually be covered with fire-resistant (FR) cable. This is the first FR cable to be installed in an IOU and is expected to make a huge impact in deterring the spread of wildfire.

Pacific Power Reps introduced the FR-NP Covered Line Wire to BVES officials at a local trade show, then furthered the demonstration with the help of WESCO Distribution.

“As regulators make stronger demands on utilities to protect California from wildfires, we have a responsibility and an obligation to introduce innovative products such as FR cable that reduce fire risk,” says James Cameron, vice president, Utility and Broadband, WESCO Distribution, Inc. “We supply BVES with these innovative materials so that they can ensure system reliability and safety.”

The Priority Wire & Cable FR cable is just one of the solutions BVES is implementing for its fire-hardening strategies. The utility, which operates primarily in a national forest with aging trees and an aging grid, has also invested in fire-resistant steel poles, ClampStar FR splice and connector clamps, IFD transformer fault detectors, and Creative Pultrusions’ composite crossarms in place of the current wooden crossarms.

"It’s important to us that we take the measures necessary to protect lives and our land, especially as drought and dryness are expected to continue across California for years to come,” Cardella says. 

Check out the following photo gallery to see the installation of the fire-resistant-non-propagating (FR-NP) covered wire in action. Also, look for more coverage in the print T&D World magazine in the near future. 

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