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Sourdough wildfire currently not a threat to Seattle City Light-operated dams

Sourdough fire scene (August 6, 2023). Photo: WSDOT

(The Center Square)The wildfire in the North Cascades has impacted nearly 1,400 acres, but Seattle City Light’s nearby $1.3 billion hydroelectric project is not currently threatened.

Seattle City Light told The Center Square that the department’s dams, powerhouses and transmission lines are for the moment safe from the Sourdough Mountain fire.

“The fire reached close proximity to Diablo township, dam and powerhouse but has since shifted away from the area,” Seattle City Light Media Relations Manager Jenn Strang said in an email. “All fires are unpredictable, and we cannot anticipate the path it will take in the future but we, and the NW Team 10 fire crews, are doing their best to protect and preserve critical infrastructure and equipment from damage.”

The fire started on July 29 near the Sourdough Mountain trail in the North Cascades as a result of a lightning strike. Over the next several days, it grew to a high of a reported 2,933 affected acres but was adjusted down due to more accurate mapping with an infrared helicopter flight. As of Monday, the fire was at 1,397 acres with 0% containment, according to InciWeb.

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Seattle City Light previously said its staff is working to maintain operations and monitor infrastructure in order to minimize customer impact. The Skagit Hydroelectric Project consists of three dams that supply up to 30% of Seattle’s power during the year, according to the department. Strang said the Ross and Diablo dams are currently offline and their transmission lines are de-energized to provide safer access to fire crews and city light staff. This also safeguards the hydroelectric project’s infrastructure.

The department is also supporting fire crews with heavy equipment by clearing roads of debris and transporting crews to and from positive impact sites – where firefighters can have a better chance at slowing down the fire – from city light-owned boats on Diablo and Ross lakes.

Strang said Seattle City Light plans and routinely practices for a number of emergency scenarios, including wildfires through its emergency management program. Dozens of employees meet twice a day as a Sourdough incident management team to ensure situational awareness and maintain clear communications.

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