FEATURE // WildFiRE Risk AssEssmEnT Chelan PUD line workers soak a wood pole with water to protect against flames. (Chelan County PUD) CHelan CoUnty PUD anD HDR’S neW aPPRoaCH HelPS aSSeSS wildfire risks to infRaStRUCtURe Western Energy / Fall 2017 / westernenergy.org/we By Ben McKinsey, HDR, and Jim Caldwell and Steve Wickel, Chelan County PUD Fueled by dry weather, drought, strong winds and warm temperatures, wildfires erupt quickly and spread rapidly, burning millions of acres of land each year and consuming everything in their path. These wildfires are occurring more frequently and with more intensity than ever before, causing extensive damage and raising concern for utilities nationwide. Ben McKinsey Jim Caldwell Not only can wildfires, storms and ice threaten a utility’s assets, they can pose substantial risks to transmission system reliability. Although Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD) transmission lines span a relatively small geographic area, the terrain varies dramatically from near-desert to deeply forested mountains, with conditions that regularly include snow and ice storms, gusty winds and wildfires. 18 For the past five years, multiple wildfires affected several locations in Washington’s Chelan County, including downtown Wenatchee and the city of Chelan. Chelan PUD knew it was time to look at their system differently.