UniSource works year-round to reduce the risk of wildfires that can destroy property and lead to power outages.

We take active measures to reinforce our network of more than 320 miles of electric transmission lines running through remote forests and desert areas in Arizona. Widespread outages can occur if these systems, which we use to deliver power to customers from remote generating resources, are damaged or shut down due to a wildfire.

“We recognize wildfires can present a significant threat to public safety and reliable service to our customers.  That’s why we continually inspect, repair and upgrade our equipment, and actively monitor for potential wildfires throughout the summer,” said Larry Robinson, Director of

Engineering. “We’re ready to respond if a wildfire threatens our systems.”

Here are four ways UniSource prepares for wildfire risks.

Strengthening our energy grid

UniSource designs our local energy grid to withstand climate-related risks. We install equipment on non-combustible steel poles and we’ve improved the grounding and bonding procedures of power pole hardware to reduce ignition risks.

Our System Control operators monitor transmission and distribution equipment around the clock to identify faults and de-energize equipment as needed to support wildfire mitigation and suppression efforts.

Vegetation management

UniSource actively patrols and manages transmission line routes to keep trees and other vegetation from growing near electric equipment, which can affect reliability and create wildfire risks.

“We perform helicopter patrols of our transmission systems every year, typically in the first quarter before the traditional summertime wildfire season,” Robinson said. “We recently completed our spring patrols and didn’t observe anything that gave us any vegetation management concerns.”

Employees continually conduct visual inspections of lower-voltage distribution facilities to identify equipment in need of maintenance and vegetation in need of trimming.

In the Nogales area, UniSource crews perform ground patrols every year to inspect distribution equipment in forested areas. Our 138 kilovolt (kV) transmission facilities are patrolled by helicopter twice a year.

In the Kingman and Lake Havasu City areas, UniSource’s 69 kilovolt (kV) lines and remote lower-voltage distribution lines are patrolled by helicopter once a year.

UniSource works to maintain right-of-way clearances under our transmission and sub-transmission lines.  Crews work throughout the year to trim trees and other vegetation that could create fire risks.

Emergency planning and situational awareness

UniSource participates in wildfire training and preparation efforts with neighboring utilities, local emergency management offices and other agencies before and during wildfire season. If wildfires encroach on our electrical systems, employees are assigned to coordinate with firefighting agencies and local officials at incident command sites.

Employees also monitor state and federal wildfire and emergency management websites to identify potential threats near UniSource electric systems.

Improving Wildfire Mitigation

In addition to these active measures, UniSource is considering additional ways to mitigate wildfire risks.

“This year, we’re working to develop a more robust wildfire mitigation plan. We’re performing a risk assessment of our service territories and other areas where our facilities are located,” Robinson said.

New measures under consideration include:

  • Potential development of a public safety power shut-off (PSPS) plan
  • Evaluation and trial of new technologies
  • Adjustments to grid operations to reduce fire risks.

New measures are expected to be in place by summer 2025.

Outreach and education for both electric and gas customers is an important part of UniSource’s strategy. We promote wildfire safety through our “Plugged In” customer newsletter, information pages and other channels to inform customers about our wildfire preparation efforts and about any active wildfires that could impact service reliability.

In May, UniSource mailed a ‘Be Firewise’ bill insert to natural gas customers.

We also maintain open lines of communication with elected officials and regulatory agencies, including the Arizona Corporation Commission and the Office of the Governor.

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