Ashes and heavy smoke from the Chips Fire caused a wide-spread but short term power outage in western Plumas County Wednesday (Aug. 15) afternoon.
As the Chips Fire burned near two transmission lines that carry power to and from Plumas County, ashes and particulate matter from smoke around power lines caused arcing. To protect themselves, the transmission lines switched off, causing the outage. Later, when smoke conditions changed, PG&E was able to restore power flows on the transmission lines and voltage conditions were normal. However, PG&E crews had to reach and then manually restore power by resetting circuit breakers in substations.
Thanks to an escort by firefighters, a PG&E hydroelectric operator was able to quickly reach the Caribou Powerhouse switchyard and restore the switch within 45 minutes.
“It was a collaborative effort between U.S. Forest Service firefighters and PG&E to restore power to our Plumas County residents in a safe and efficient manner,” said Lee Woodson, Northern Region restoration and control supervisor.
A total of 11,000 PG&E customers – or virtually all PG&E customers in Plumas County – lost power at about 3:15 p.m. Power was restored to Chester within a few minutes thanks to an alternate transmission line feed from the north. By 4 p.m., PG&E had restored nearly all customers except those in Hamilton Branch. Hamilton Branch customers were restored by 4:45 p.m.