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Power may be cut to 42,000 Oregon homes due to extreme wildfire danger – Statesman Journal

Story updated at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8
For the latest updates on active wildfires and power shutdowns, see the Statesman Journal’s live blog.
Oregon’s largest utilities are considering shutting down power to at least 42,000 households due to extreme wildfire danger on Friday and Saturday. Shutoffs could begin as early as 12:01 a.m. Friday, according to the latest information provided.
The power shutdowns appear most likely east of Interstate 5 outside of Salem, Albany and Eugene, along with the foothills and mountains outside Portland.
Some schools have announced they’ll be closed Friday due to the power outages and wildfire concerns, including Santiam Canyon School District, Silver Falls School District, Mari-Linn School and Sweet Home school district.
And state officials announced they are activating the state’s Emergency Coordination Center.
Forecasters are becoming increasingly concerned about a strong east wind event similar to the conditions leading to the 2020 Labor Day fires blowup.
“We’re at what I would call the APEX of fire season. Any new starts could be very problematic over the next 72 hours,” Oregon State Deputy Fire Marsha Travis Medema said during a Thursday news conference. “Over the last 24 hours, we did have some lightning storms in southern Oregon. There are potentially other fires out there due to the lightning storms.”
Those impacted by planned outages should be contacted at least four hours before the shutoff actually occurs.
Coming stormOregon to see extreme wildfire danger similar to 2020 Labor Day blowup; Cedar Creek Fire reaches 31,000 acres
Pacific Power said its planning to shut down power to 12,000 homes in parts of Marion, Polk, Linn, Douglas, Lincoln and Tillamook counties, impacting communities including Stayton through the Santiam Canyon, Lebanon, Sweet Home, Lincoln City and Glide along the Umpqua Highway.
Portland General Electric, Oregon’s largest utility, said it was “increasingly likely to call a public safety power shutoff” in 10 designated areas, which includes about 30,000 homes, mainly southeast and west of the Portland metro area.
“These projected winds will make it entirely possible that there will be significant damage to our system. Our field crews and support workers as well as additional resources from partner utilities will be deployed during the event and will work until power is fully restored,” Portland General Electric CEO Maria Pope said during the news conference.
Consumers Power Inc. said it was considering shutoffs in Sweet Home, Stayton, Scio, Lyons, Elkhorn, Detroit, Idanha and Marion Forks.
“(We’re asking) all members to prepare now for the potential of an unplanned outage,” Linn County officials said in a statement. “Should an outage occur, it could take power companies between 12 hours and 48 hours (or longer) to restore power to all customers.”
‘A dangerous week’: East winds, storms in Oregon could spread wildfires
Pacific Power said it was planning to implement the power shutoff that could begin as early as midnight between Thursday and Friday and that it could last through Saturday evening.
“Current forecasts indicate conditions for a (shutoff) could be met in some areas as early as 12:01 a.m. on September 9,” the company said. “However, due to the dynamic nature of the wind event, certain areas could experience different start times and Public Safety Power Shutoff durations. It is our goal to communicate estimated start times with customers Thursday evening.”   
The shutoff areas are:
While wind speeds aren’t expected to be as powerful as in 2020, the company said “our advanced weather modeling is indicating a potential for dangerous fire weather conditions,” said Steve Vanderburg, meteorology manager for Pacific Power.
Labor Day FiresTwo years later, Oregon agencies still haven’t finished 10 wildfire investigations
In September 2020, Pacific Power was blamed for many of the Labor Day wildfires that ignited in the windstorm after power lines were knocked down. Numerous lawsuits blaming the utility for the fires have been filed, including a class action suit of nearly 2,500 properties, many in the Santiam Canyon.
A core point of the lawsuits is that Pacific failed to shut down power during a time of extreme wildfire danger.
The investigation into the causes of those fires remains ongoing, state and federal agencies said.
“Customers have been notified of the potential power shutoff through phone calls, email and text messages,” the company said in a news release. “Customers will continue to receive updates through ongoing communications.”
For all non-emergency questions about the power shutoff, customers and the public can call Pacific Power at 1-888-221-7070. Visit for additional information on the shutoff, outage preparedness and wildfire safety.  
Portland General Electric said late Wednesday night that those in 10 power shutoff areas — areas of higher wildfire danger — appear increasingly likely to have their power cut. That would include about 30,000 customer meters.
They said to look at a map to confirm whether customers were in those areas. The maps can be found here:
“PGE is actively monitoring conditions and will make the decision based on factors including wind speed, temperature, humidity and the dryness of trees and brush, field observations and information from local fire departments and agencies,” the utility said in a news release. “PGE will continue to monitor conditions for the next 24-48 hours and will provide an update. If conditions persist, PGE aims to provide up to four hours of notice before turning off power.”
PGE did shut down power during the 2020 Labor Day Fire windstorm.
If PGE shuts down power, it said that centers would likely be opened to provide information, water, ice, Wi-Fi and access to charging for personal electronics, a news release said.
Customer service is available at 503-228-6322 and service advisors can assist customers in more than 200 languages.  
Consumers Power Inc., which has customers mainly in rural areas, said that as a last resort, it “may execute a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in parts of our service territory, including the communities of Sweet Home, Stayton, Scio, Lyons, Elkhorn, Detroit, Idanha, and Marion Forks.”
“CPI is asking members in the affected areas to prepare now for the potential of an unplanned outage,” it said.
For a real-time map of outages, the company pointed to its Outage Information page.
The following schools have announced they will be closed Friday:
“It is not easy writing this communication, but we have made the difficult decision to cancel school for Friday, Sept. 9,” Santiam Canyon School District Superintendent Todd Miller wrote in an announcement posted Wednesday.
Due to the fire weather watch and high winds, Miller explained, Pacific Power will be cutting power to the area just after midnight Thursday evening, so the schools won’t have power Friday into Saturday, “and possibly longer.”
“I don’t like canceling school, especially the first week, but there are too many safety factors that play into this decision,” Miller wrote in the announcement.
The district’s first day of the new year was Tuesday.
Lee Loving, superintendent of North Marion School District, said the district confirmed the power to Mari-Linn School, which serves students K-8 from Mehama and Lyons, will be shut off early Friday morning. Power is expected to remain off the entire day and possibly through the weekend.
As a result, officials wrote in an announcement to the community Thursday, Mari-Linn School will be closed Friday. As of Thursday morning, Stayton and Sublimity schools planned to remain open.
Officials said all buses will run on normal route times to pick up students in grades 9-12 who live in Lyons, Mehama, Scio and the surrounding area. Mari-Linn staff will be participating in staff development in Stayton for the day, according to the announcement. 
Middle school sports practices are still happening after school on Friday, and the athletic shuttle that goes from Mari-Linn to Stayton Middle will leave at 2:35 p.m. for those students wishing to participate, officials said. Mari-Linn School student-athletes must be dropped off at Mari-Linn no later than 2:30 p.m. 
Officials planned to send sack lunches home with students in advance to support families affected by the power outage.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter in Oregon for 15 years and is host of the Explore Oregon Podcast. To support his work, subscribe to the Statesman Journal. Urness is the author of “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.


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