The Black Forest Fire, the most destructive in Colorado history, began on June 11 is entirely in the Mountain View Electric Association (MVEA) service territory. By the second day, as the fire raged through homes and businesses it also damaged transmission lines supplying power to five substations affecting nearly 11,000 MVEA meters. The transmission lines owned by Tri-State Generation and Transmission (Tri-State), MVEA’s power supplier, were quickly rerouted and electricity was restored to 8,000 meters within an hour. MVEA crews are continued to work around evacuated areas to further restore power to an additional 1,500 meters over the next couple of days.
Working with the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), MVEA and Tri-State crews were first allowed limited access into the burn area on Thursday, June 13, but were quickly ordered to evacuate as the fire changed direction, threatening their safety. Tri-State finished its repairs to three sections of infrastructure by Monday morning, June 17 and reenergized its transmission lines. In addition, MVEA crews were first granted full access to the fire zone on Monday.
Currently, we have 21 miles of line that has been potentially damaged and must be inspected and assessed. We have 800 poles to be inspected in the burn area, after further assessment we will be able to determine which poles are necessary to replace and which are in satisfactory condition. We are estimating 1,000 meters without power. We hope to reduce this number as we get poles replaced and lines energized. However, just because lines are energized and we have power in the area it does not mean power will be on in individual homes. The reason a particular home may not have power might be the result of structural damage and/or electrical safety issues, identified by the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department (Regional Building). We will be working closely with Regional Building on this process.
As of today, Thursday, June 20, a total of 70 individuals are working from sunrise to sunset to restore damaged lines; comprised of MVEA linemen, tree trimmers, staking technicians, and engineers as well as contractors from Foothills Energy and Asplundh Tree Expert Company.
The areas surrounding the burn area are currently energized and have been on most of the time since the fire began. However, there have been several periods of outages, the longest being 14 hours. So, if your home was in the mandatory evacuation area but outside of the burn area, you still need to presume that perishable food items may be bad and should be disposed of properly. Please refer additional food safety questions to the El Paso County Public Health Department at 719-444-8301.
As we focus our resources on rebuilding MVEA lines, power will be restored on a daily basis to as many meters as possible; but it may be several weeks until the last one is connected. For our linemen to do their job they need the support of our entire team including engineering, material handlers, and people on the phone taking calls. All MVEA employees are dedicated to getting the power restored as quickly as possible without jeopardizing the safety of the returning public and of our crews.
MVEA is represented at the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center (DAC) on Garden of the Gods Road. The DAC is open from 8 am until 6 pm daily. We plan to continue to have representation at the DAC until further notice. We have also had a presence at the daily Incident Command Center briefings held by the EOC. General updates to activities surrounding the Black Forest Fire will continue to be posted on the MVEA website through the homepage on the Black Forest Fire Outage Update link and through our Facebook page at facebook.com/MVEAInc.
Our sympathy goes out to those who have lost their homes and we want to thank those returning for your cooperation and patience through the rebuilding process.