Community Commitment
May 3, 2024

How Xcel Energy is taking steps to enhance wildfire safety

Keeping communities and crews safe takes preparation

As climate conditions have changed across the United States, the traditional idea of a fire risk season has evolved into a year-round battle against rapidly changing, extreme weather conditions. And areas unaccustomed to coping with wildfire risks are now experiencing warnings more familiar in western states.   

Those climate conditions can generate larger, more intense and faster moving wildfires. In response, many energy companies, including Xcel Energy, are making strategic investments and improvements to strengthen the power grid, build resilience and increase situational awareness to mitigate wildfire risks.   

“We recognize that wildfires pose a significant threat to our customers and communities; we are proactively taking steps to minimize risks associated with operating our system and to help our customers prepare for wildfire conditions,” said Anne Sherwood, Area Vice President of Wildfire Mitigation. “Xcel Energy is working diligently to ensure that we take steps and partner with many others to protect against wildfires and the damage they cause.”   

Although utility systems are the cause of less than 10% of wildfires, to keep the communities we serve and our work crews safe, we are taking a variety of steps designed to reduce wildfire risks associated with our power grid and infrastructure. Those steps include powerline monitoring, maintenance and upgrades that strengthen our system, clearing of trees, brush and grass near our powerlines, deploying advanced threat detection technologies, working with weather forecasting experts and first responders, and operating our power grid in new ways intended to mitigate the risks of wildfires.  

One of the steps the company is taking is using Wildfire Safety Settings on our powerlines during periods of high wildfire risk. Typically, when there is an issue that causes a power outage on a line, such as a tree branch contacting a power line, equipment on the system will attempt to restore power automatically, usually within a few seconds. When Wildfire Safety Settings are in place, the system will not automatically restore power when there is an issue on the line. Instead, crews will visually inspect the entire line to ensure it is safe to restore service before turning the power back on. While this step is intended to increase public safety and decrease the risk of wildfire, it also means power outages may be more frequent or last longer for customers.  

In periods of extreme wildfire risk, like significant high winds and dry conditions, we may need to proactively turn off power to a limited number of customers to decrease the risk of wildfire. These Public Safety Power Shutoffs are a last resort measure to protect public safety. 

As part of this work, we are also helping our customers understand the evolving risks of wildfires and providing tips that help them be prepared in the event of a power outage. To be ready in the event of an electric outage, it’s a good idea to keep phones and other devices charged and build an outage kit with items that do not require electricity, such as a battery powered radio, flashlights, batteries, a portable charger. Our website offers customers more tips on how to be prepared in the event of an outage. 

As wildfire risks continue to evolve, so do the tools we are using to protect customers, communities, and our work crews. We take our commitment to providing safe, reliable service seriously, and appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding as we work to keep the public safe.