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Utility declares emergency; repairs could take weeks

One of the hundreds of power poles damaged by fire.

Randy Bradshaw/Special to The Chronicle


One of the hundreds of power poles damaged by fire.

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— Repairs to fire-damaged Okanogan County Public Utility District lines are expected to take weeks.

Utility commissioners met Friday afternoon in emergency session to authorize Manager John Grubich to take actions necessary “to address the immediate needs of the district” and declare an emergency.

Grubich said the district’s lines suffered extensive damage from the Carlton Complex fires, but crews have been unable to get into the affected areas to assess all the damage because the fires are still raging.

“We’ve got hundreds, if not thousands, of structures on the ground,” he said, in reference to poles and other line support structures.

As of mid-afternoon Friday, about 3,700 customers were without power. All customers of the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative are without power because the public utility transmits electricity to the Winthrop-based co-op.

About four miles at the western end of the Loup Loup transmission line have burned. The line takes power from the Okanogan Valley to the Methow Valley.

“The Methow Valley is ou t until we can repair it,” Grubich said.

A spur off the line also feeds the Malott area, but that – so far – is working. The fire was spreading northward into the Malott area as of about 3 p.m., with a Level 3 (highest) evacuation notice issued for the community.

A transmission line between Brewster and Pateros also has burned.

The utility’s fiber optics backbone line also has been damaged, with several miles of it burned along Old Highway 97. The line is operational from Malott northward.

The utility sells wholesale telecommunications service to retailers, who sell it to end users.

Grubich said the Grant and Chelan counties’ public utility districts have offered crews and equipment, and the Bonneville Power Administration has offered crews.

“Our initial plan is to work 16-hour days and sleep at night” for as long as it takes to repair the damage and restore services, he said.

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