Power Mostly Restored To Creek County After Wildfire

Friday, August 10th 2012, 1:37 pm
By: News On 6

A mass power outage, due to wildfires that ripped through Creek County last weekend, has primarily been restored, officials said on Friday.

Customers from several different electric providers had no power because fires burned up transformers and utility poles across the county's 58,500 acres of scorched land.

08/05/2012 Related Story: Linemen Work To Restore Power To Wildfire-Ravaged Creek County

Power to City of Mannford customers was restored by the Grand River Dam Authority late Sunday, spokesperson Justin Alberty said.

OG&E said it had an additional 2,000 customers from Drumright and Olive to the edge of Mannford who were without power. Power now has been restored to all OG&E customers who can receive power, spokesperson Kathleen O'Shea said.

Indian Electric Cooperative in Cleveland services the outlying rural areas of Mannford. Member Services Manager David Wilson said that on Saturday, IEC had 5,000 members who were without power. By Friday morning, IEC had about 100 outages and the company is in the process of determining if those members lost their homes.

"In a lot of those, no one has called to report the outage, but we know it is out," Wilson said. "So we are mapping the locations and physically driving out there to see if there is still a home standing."

Federal officials began their assessments of the disaster area Thursday, and early calculations have the number of residences lost in Creek County at 209.

See full coverage of Oklahoma Wildfires

Nearly 800 IEC utility poles have been replaced in just six days, Wilson said, but those are just poles that had to be fixed immediately. He said the company likely will be replacing poles for months. Costs to IEC are up to $5 million, and it hopes reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will keep the company from absorbing a chunk of that figure.

Wilson said initially, transmission structures were on fire and three substations were down. IEC focused on rebuilding those before moving on to individual homes.

Utility crews even had to fight fires Saturday and Sunday, and they continued to battle hot spots in areas they needed to be throughout the week.

"They work from sun-up to sundown and sometimes beyond sundown," Wilson said. "These guys are out 18-19 hours, they come home to get a few hours sleep, and they're out there again."

Wilson said his IEC crews are not just physically exhausted, but working a disaster area takes a mental toll as well.

"They know (the victims)," he said earlier this week. "Mannford is just down the highway. These people are friends and family to a lot of our men. They recognize the devastation and they come back and talk about it and they are very sensitive to it."

The cooperative held its annual members meeting on Thursday evening, and noticeably missing were the linemen, who were still out in the field. The crowd itself, which usually numbers about 1,000, was a little less than normal and the sentiment more somber.

"(The damage) is incredible," Wilson said. "It has affected so many people. It's just hard to imagine unless you see it."

The ice storm of 2007 was a huge event for IEC in terms of outages, but last week's raging wildfires were drastically different because they left people homeless.

"It's been humbling to see this much devastation and this much loss," IEC lineman Damon Lester said. "It's terrible."