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‘This is far from over’: Sourdough wildfire unlikely to be contained until October

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(The Center Square) – Seattle City Light’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project continues to face the looming threat of the Sourdough wildfire in the North Cascades, which is not expected to be put out anytime soon. Estimated time of containment is currently listed as October 1.

The fire started on July 29 near the Sourdough Mountain trail in the North Cascades as a result of a lightning strike. As of Thursday, the wildfire has spread to 2,953 acres with only 11% containment.

Seattle City Light’s $1.3 billion Skagit Hydroelectric Project is located near the fire, but the department said staff are maintaining operations and monitoring the site to ensure the blaze doesn’t impact city light customers.

Two out of the three dams located at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project site are producing only localized power. The three dams supply up to 30% of Seattle’s power during the year, according to the department.

On Aug. 12, the Ross and Diablo dams were de-energized a second time since the fire started to provide safer access to fire crews and Seattle City Light staff, as well as to protect the dams’ infrastructure.

“This is far from over, and we’re doing our best to manage day-to-day operations and fire response while also looking ahead to how we will begin recovery efforts applying lessons learned and best practices,” Seattle City Light Interim General Manager Mike Haynes said in a statement. “I want to recognize the many dozens of City Light staff members from across our divisions putting in long hours to make sure that our people and infrastructure are safe and secure.”

Seattle City Light recently released its Wildfire Risk Reduction Strategy, which seeks to minimize any potential damage through risk reduction plans. The strategy is already being applied at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project site and will be used for the response and recovery period after the Sourdough wildfire is extinguished.

This is not the first time the public utility has had to work to prevent a wildfire from hindering the hydroelectric dams in the North Cascades. The Goodell Creek fire from 2015 required Seattle City Light to evacuate nonessential personnel from Diablo and Newhalem and de-energize transmission lines for several days. The cost to the utility was $2.2 million in damages, response and labor, as well as an additional $900,000 for power purchases and lost generation.

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