Chelan PUD is gearing up for wildfire season with a plan based of research the utility has done.

A presentation to PUD commisioners this week featured a map which breaks down the areas where power lines are at risk into three tiers.

PUD Distribution Asset Management Director Chad Rissman says they've made one important conclusion.

"We recognize that all of Chelan County has elevated fire risk.," said Rissman.

The locations where power lines are at the highest risk during fire season are in the Tier 3 category.

They include the Lake Wenatchee and Plain areas, along with spots near Blewett Pass, Azwell, Beebe Bridge Park, and south of Rock Island.

The utility reports 59 percent of its overhead distribution line areas are low risk, while 29 percent are medium risk and 15 percent are high risk.

The PUD removed about 5,000 hazard trees in the Lake Wenatchee/Plain and Chelan/Entiat areas last year, and plans to do the same this year.

It operates about 2,000 miles of distribution lines in the county that could be susceptible to wildfires.

To combat the threat, the PUD shuts off power in fire-prone areas and in very high winds and dry conditions. An outage plan was developed last year for Lake Wenatchee, Plain and Chumstick Highway. The plan could be expanded this year.

To further protect the high risk areas, the utility is spending $2 million to bury power-lines in the Lake Wenatchee/Plain area.

Distribution Management Director Chad Rissman was asked about another nagging cause of power outages - the squirrel population.

"I'm not a biologist, but I can tell you this, "Rissman said. "We've installed a lot of animal guards, and continue to install a lot of animal guards. Yet the outages associated with animals continue to rise."

The PUD is spending $50,000 for wildlife guards for animal mitigation power poles.

The utility presented a list of priorities for wildfire mitigation during a presentation to PUD Commissioners this week:

Vegetation management: More frequent inspections, pruning
• Operational changes during fire season
• Fire-hardening: Steel structures, fire-retardant paint
• Undergrounding where feasible
• Coordination with other agencies
• Fire safety outage management

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