Preventing Wildfires

Benton REA members are encouraged to practice safe wildfire prevention on their properties and report potential fire risks to Benton REA by calling 509-786-2913.

You may download Benton REA's fire mitigation plan and other fire-prevention and safety resources on this page.

Wildfire in sagebrush eastern Washington

Wildfire Mitigation Plan

Wildfire mitigation is a utility-wide responsibility, part of all aspects of utility facilities design, operations, maintenance and upkeep.

The purpose of Benton REA's wildfire mitigation plan is to ensure the construction, operation and maintenance of Benton REA electrical system, and related facilities, is done in a manner that proactively mitigates the risk of wildfire, with the objective of minimizing the risk of wildfire by its electrical lines and equipment, and to set actions that can be taken, and those responsible for taking them, in the event of a wildfire or environmental emergency.

It must be recognized that no fire mitigation plan can be sufficiently comprehensive to address all possible contingencies that may emerge during an adverse environmental or wildfire situation. However, Benton REA will follow these prevention practices: 

Maintenance of the Electrical System

Benton REA uses proactive maintenance programs and line patrols to identify potential problem areas and harden Benton REA’s electrical infrastructure to mitigate potential fire ignitions caused by equipment malfunction or failure. This includes:

  1. Testing poles over the entire Benton REA electrical system on a 10-year rotation and replacing as needed.
  2. Maintaining the electrical system equipment so it works properly, identifying areas that need maintenance to prevent failures that potentially could cause a fire.
  3. Identifying and addressing electrical system infrastructure that could pose potential fire ignitions when not performing properly in extreme weather conditions.

Vegetation Management

The goal of vegetation management is to proactively maintain vegetation in a manner that keeps it from coming into contact with Benton REA’s electrical system facilities, thereby reducing the likelihood of outages and fires. The facets of vegetation management are:

  1. Preventive Vegetation Management
  2. Corrective Vegetation Clearance
  3. Emergency Vegetation Clearance
  4. Post Fire Vegetation Actions
  5. Standards for Routine Vegetation Management Activities

Trees often block powerline right-of-ways, and can growing tall enough to touch the power lines, potentially causing a wildfire and/or power outage and blocking vehicle access for maintenance and repairs.

Trees in Powerline right-of-way
Powerline Right-of-way Before Pruning
After pruning, this powerline right-of-way is clear of trees, shows a forested area with trees to the right and left of a powerline with blue sky above
Powerline Right-of-way After Pruning

During a Wildfire

Normal Conditions

When the wildfire risk is rated low, medium or high, the Benton REA electric system will be operated with a focus on providing optimal reliability and continuity of service to all members, but with heightened awareness of wildfire risk when it is rated as high. 

Weather, fire danger and other environmental risk data will be obtained from the following sources:

Fire Mitigation/Environmental Operations

During times when the risk of fire is very high to extreme, the Benton REA electrical system facilities can be operated in a manner that reduces the risk of electrically induced fires.

Changes in operating practices are made to safeguard the public, reduce the possibility of electrically induced fires and protect Benton REA’s electrical system and facilities from damage. Such practices include system monitoring, patrolling lines that have experienced interruptions of power before reenergizing, and placing power line reclosers or circuit breakers on “non-reclose” to prevent multiple recloses during these occurrences.

Benton REA will monitor closely the substation circuit breakers and line reclosers based on the exposure to combustibility risk of the lines they protect. Fire Mitigation/Environmental Operations do not mandate the use of alternate trip settings, non-reclose settings, or de‐energization of circuits entirely based upon data obtained. These modes will be considered by the operations and engineering managers, and implemented when such actions are warranted, in the professional judgment of the managers, based on the then current wildfire and/or environmental conditions.

Public Safety Power Shutoffs

Weather-related outages happen without warning, as do public safety power shutoffs related to hot, dry, windy conditions. Check weather forecasts to know what is coming your way.

In the event of a public safety power shutoff, Benton REA will notify members in the effected areas as soon as possible through this website, social media and other timely communication tools.

Benton REA has the authority to shut off power on specific line segments due to fire-threat conditions. This option will only be used in the most extraordinary of circumstances, and only when other strategies would not be effective. The operations and engineering managers, in consultation with the general manager, will make a case-by-case decision whether to shut off power based on any one or more of the following considerations:

  1. Red-Flag Warnings issued by the National Weather Service for fire weather zones that contain Benton REA circuits.
  2. Benton REA staff assessments of local conditions, including wind speed (sustained and gust), humidity and temperature, fuel moisture, fuel loading and data from weather stations.
  3. Real-time information from Benton REA staff located in areas identified as at risk of being subject to extreme weather conditions.
  4. Awareness of mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders in place.
  5. Expected impact of de-energizing circuits on essential services.
  6. Other operational considerations to minimize potential wildfire ignitions, including the blocking of reclosers on the identified circuit(s).
  7. On-going fire activity throughout the area.
  8. Ability to notify members, local governments and public officials.
  9. Potential impacts to communities and members.

Member Wildfire Prevention, Preparation and Safety

There are many ways home and property owners can prevent wildfires and protect their family, animals and property if one occurs nearby.

Be Informed: Update Your Contact Information

Make sure Benton REA has your current email address and cell phone number to ensure you receive important safety updates about electric outages and wildfires in your area. Call 800-221-6987 during business hours to update your contact information with Benton REA. 

Follow Benton REA on Facebook and Twitter for the most-current wildfire and electric outage information.

Vegetation Pruning and Management

Branches that get too close or touch utility power lines can cause power outages and wildfires. Selecting and planting trees with the size and growth characteristics appropriate to their location can also extend the life of the tree.

Visit our Planting and Pruning Trees Near Power Lines webpage for more information.

Backup Generation and Batteries for Essential and Medical Needs

Water: Without electricity, well pumps don't work, The need for water during wildfire season is great. Consider adding a water storage tank and backup generator to ensure you have this most basic need for your family and animals. 

Generator: For help selecting the right size generator, search "generator installation" in your area, or call Benton REA at 509-786-8265. Be sure to follow safe practices when operating a generator.

Communication: Electricity also powers telephones, computers and your internet router. Battery backups for these devises are available online and at office supply stores. Look for battery backups that are Energy-Star certified and have multiple outlets for all your needs.

Medical Equipment: If you have medical equipment that relies on electricity, such as a CPAP machine or oxygen concentrator, a backup battery is essential. Contact your medical supplier to help you choose a portable, battery-operated version to be sure your needs are met in case of an emergency or power outage.

Smoke, Water and Evacuation

During a wildfire, listen to the local authorities' instructions for safe drinking water, smoke protection and when and where to evacuate.

Power Outages During a Wildfire

Falling limbs, trees or burnt power poles can cause electric outages during a wildfire, even if a public safety power shutoff occurs. 

If the power goes out during a wildfire, report it to Benton REA by calling 800-221-6987 or using the Benton REA SmartHub app. Once you have reported the outage, look for information from Benton REA on estimated restoration times and local fire and evacuation announcements.

Electric outages affecting more than 10 members will appear on the Benton REA outage map.