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Rocky Mountain Power warns it may shut off electricity this weekend in southern Utah due to high winds, fire danger

A photo of the Alaska Fire burning near Provo during the early hours of Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

((Photo: Carlos Van Hoose, iWitness))



ST. GEORGE — Rocky Mountain Power may have to shut off the electricity in certain parts of southern Utah this weekend. The company is warning customers about possible shutoffs because strong winds are making the already extreme fire conditions even worse.

So far, there is no official plan to shut off the electricity in southern Utah. However, Rocky Mountain Power spokesman David Eskelsen said the company has extra equipment on standby and crews will be patrolling the power lines to spot any signs of damage.

Eskelsen reported turning off the electricity isn't something that they really want to do. "A power safety shutoff is a last resort," he said.

Eskelsen said their focus is mostly on Washington and Iron counties, but it could expand past those boundaries. Rocky Mountain Power has its own meteorologists keeping an eye on weather patterns and wind speeds, and they know where their vulnerable equipment is.

"We have a pretty good idea of where the high-risk areas are. We're prepared to notify customers prior to taking a shutoff action," according to Eskelsen.

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Years of drought have made fire conditions as bad as officials can remember. Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry said if anything ignites the grasses, the fire will likely grow out of control by the time fire crews arrive.

"With any kind of wind, it's going to push that fire far beyond the control of just those local one or two engines," Curry says.

Plus, fighting wildfires will be harder for the next few weeks. Curry says the state has fewer fire-fighting aircraft at its disposal in May than it will have in June. This comes from contracts with the federal government that aren't effective until June 1.

Curry says, "We have some aviation resources available to us on those federal contracts, but they are in shorter supply than we will have in another 30 days or so."

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Paul Nelson

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