Power Restoration

Fires Bring Down Okla. Poles, Lines

By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: August 7th, 2012

Add wildfires to the stifling heat and withering drought conditions plaguing electric cooperatives and their consumer-members in parts of Oklahoma.

Residents in Luther, Okla., look at the remains of their homes Aug. 4 after a wildfire. (Photo By: AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel)

Residents in Luther, Okla., look at the remains of their homes Aug. 4 after a wildfire. (Photo By: AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Jim Beckel)

“As many as four electric cooperatives sustained fairly heavy damage to their distribution systems caused by wildfires,” said Sid Sperry, director of public relations, communications and research for the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. The fires began Aug. 3 in different parts of the state.

Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, based in Norman, lost about 100 poles before state forestry service officials declared it substantially contained Aug. 5. Hundreds of residents were evacuated as 25 mph winds spread embers from the flames over a large area.

“Just west of Tulsa, wildfires consumed a lot of infrastructure belonging to Cleveland-based Indian Electric Cooperative,” said Sperry, adding that about 1,200 of the co-op’s members were without service early Aug. 6.

“The co-op requested some mutual aid to help them rebuild damaged portions of the distribution system, and seven electric cooperatives responded by sending crews to assist.”

Central Rural Electric Cooperative, based in Stillwater, reported 23 wildfire-related outages early Aug. 6, Sperry said. “Roughly 73,000 acres have been burned by these three or four wildfires.”

East Central Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, based in Okmulgee, also reported some outages, primarily due to loss of transmission service after KAMO Power lost about 10 high-voltage transmission structures Aug. 4.

Construction crews from the Vinita-based G&T worked quickly to erect new wooden H-structures and single transmission structures in order to reroute power to five substations.

“By the time damage is totaled up statewide, there will likely be at least 100 homes destroyed, mostly in rural areas.” Sperry said. “It’s been hot and dry here in Oklahoma, and even though northern Oklahoma got some rain, which helped firefighters get some of the blazes under control, it wasn’t enough.”

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