Hog Fire Power Outage

Posted On: August 6, 2020

The week of July 19th, 2020 was one for the record books. North of Susanville, along highway 36 the Hog Fire burned out of control. Communication lines were lost early in the week and for several days, most of Lassen county was without internet and cell service. Ash and smoke filled the skies. The weather was hot and dry. A thousand fire fighters and their equipment descended on the town, giving Susanville the look and feel of a disaster movie.

As luck would have it, due to PG&E’s planned maintenance of the Caribou transmission line, the LMUD system had been disconnected from the grid on July 7th and was receiving power from the Honey Lake Power plant. Due to safety concerns LMUD crews de-energized the transmission lines near the fire on Sunday. When the fire burned through our de-energized transmission lines , PG&E agreed to supply power to Westwood through the Hat Creek line and electricity  continued to flow to our community from Honey Lake Power.

Except for a short outage in Lake Forest, our power supply remained steady. Our operations center had been notified by fire personnel that there had been significant damage to both the 100 and 200 transmission lines. Without these lines, LMUD would not be able to receive energy from the Caribou line – our main connection to the PG&E system.

Tuesday, July 21, fire personnel allowed LMUD crews to enter the fire-zone to evaluate the damaged lines. While the fired continued to burn, crews assessed the damage. The next day they performed a detailed inspection of the transmission lines. Although three miles of line had been burned, most of the damage was superficial and the poles were still viable – 25 poles had been destroyed by the fire and needed to be replaced. The badly damaged poles were in “rock holes” and It was evident that pole replacement would be a long and tedious task.

With a plan in place, on Thursday, July 23, LMUD sent three backhoes to start digging holes for the replacement poles. To expedite the job, crews agreed to work 14-hour days, sunrise to sunset. Later that day, at approximately 3:30pm, the worst-case scenario happened – Honey Lake Power experienced an equipment failure and power was lost to the majority of LMUD’s system.

Calls from concerned customers poured into our office. Initially, all we knew was that HLP had gone offline and with repairs to our damaged lines barely begun, the situation was bad. The estimated time of restoration was predicted to be at least two days. The only thing to do was double our repair efforts and get the job done quickly as possible. With the help from linecrews of our neighboring utility, Plumas Sierra Rural Electric, crews worked around the clock.

Knowing they would have to stage for islanding, crews prepared the system. Meanwhile, Honey Lake Power personnel started repairs to their plant. It was all-hands on deck! Friday morning at 2:00am, LMUD and PSREC crews finished repairing our transmission line. Since HLP cannot start-up without voltage support, this allowed delivery of needed power to HLP.

Friday morning at 8:00am, Honey Lake Power was up and running, PG&E was able to supply enough power for the restart – once that was completed we separated from PG&E and started picking up load. Bit by bit, the power was restored to our system and by 12:30pm on Friday, July 24 all customers were back in power! An outage that was expected to last more than two days was over in 20 hours!

The effort and commitment that went into restoring power to our system in such a short time was amazing. We are extremely grateful for our community partners, Honey Lake Power, PG&E, CalFire, Lassen Office of Emergency Service, Lassen Forest Service and Plumas Sierra Rural Electric. Without the cooperation from these agencies, we would have certainly faced a much dire situation.

The LMUD linecrews, along with the entire LMUD staff, pulled together and worked through extreme conditions to ensure our community had the power they needed when they needed it most. As we face the remainder of the 2020 fire season, we urge you to be fire ready. Prepare for power outages by visiting www.ready.gov. If you haven’t already, you can enroll in our outage text alert system by texting the letters, LMUD, to 877-754-7697.