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Midstate Electric Co-Op customers experience weekend power outages due to sensitive line settings to cut fire risk

Midstate Electric Cooperative

The tradeoff of 'Hotline Tag': Power lines can trip off-line more easily

La PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) – A hot, dry, windy and smoky weekend brought power outages, some lengthy, for thousands of Midstate Electric Cooperative members in southern Deschutes County. Officials said it resulted from special, sensitive line settings that are a necessary tradeoff – the risk of more blackouts, to avoid the danger of sparking more wildfires.

Times of high fire danger, commonly known as red flag warnings, bring what Midstate calls a “Hotline Tag,” which it called “the most sensitive testing to protect the system and members by minimizing the risk of igniting or spreading wildfires.”

The tradeoff: “High sensitivity settings can cause more short outages,” the utility said in a Facebook posting Sunday evening.

"Line crews must patrol the lines once the breaker trips, and power is brought back up in sections," they said. "This procedure is inconvenient at times, but it is the safest option we have for the protection of our employees and communities.

"Outages can be caused by equipment or trees, birds, squirrels, etc. coming in contact with equipment," Midstate said.

Midstate officials said the “Hotline Tag” was removed late Sunday, as “we are no longer in high fire danger. Our crews are still actively working to restore power.” The co-op has a live outage map to see what areas are being affected.

They said the application of the "Hotline Tag" in times of high fire danger "is the protocol currently in place and has been all summer. Midstate works very hard to minimize outages and the time in which members are out. Also note that when your power goes out, call Midstate's Outage number to report your situation is 800-752-5935."

Last month, after two animal-related Bend-area outages, Pacific Power reported that similar sensitive power line settings, aimed at curbing wildfire risks, were raising the possibility of more, longer outages.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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