Morgan County REA latest co-op to be hit by wildfires

Morgan County REA (Fort Morgan, Colo.) is at least the third Tri-State member system to be impacted by wildfires that are burning across the region.  A grass fire was reportedly ignited by a passing vehicle on Monday (June 25) near the eastern Colorado town of Last Chance and quickly grew to a massive 45,000 acres incinerating several homes and other structures on the lines of Morgan County REA.  The co-op’s line crews were on scene quickly after the fire was brought under control on Tuesday.

Morgan County REA line crews were still assessing damage from the fire at the time of this posting, but preliminary estimates projected between 50 and 100 power poles have been destroyed by the blaze and just over 200 co-op consumers saw their electric service interrupted. At the time of this update, all but 44 of those services had been restored. The majority of the damage to the co-op’s system was along a 13-mile stretch along Highway 71, north and south of Last Chance, and a 6-mile stretch west of Last Chance along Highway 36.

Matthew Huerta, Tri-State’s substation technician based at the Brush field facility, was on site Monday afternoon and reported that the town of Last Chance is “half gone” and that there was heavy damage to both Morgan County’s and the Western Area Power Administration’s line structures in the area. It was later determined that Tri-State also sustained damage to its Anton-Last Chance 115-kV line in the area.

Geoff Baumgartner at Morgan County said that crews from Y-W Electric, Highline Electric and the City of Fort Morgan have been assisting Morgan County crews with repairs and power restoration in the fire-impacted areas.

Elsewhere in the Tri-State member service territory the High Park Fire, west of Fort Collins, Colo., continues to chew through the mountain territory of Poudre Valley REA (Fort Collins, Colo.).  In the co-op’s latest update staff members reported that Poudre Valley crews have made significant progress in rebuilding power lines in the area affected by the fire.  Service to individual meters has not been restored at the request of the fire command authorities. Power was restored to the communications arrays on Buckhorn Mountain on Sunday.  So far, the High Park Fire has claimed one life, consumed more than 87,000 acres and destroyed at least 257 homes.

In New Mexico, The Little Bear Fire, which has been burning since June 4 in the service area of member Otero County Electric (Cloudcroft, N.M.), has been declared 90 percent contained and the 400 crew members assigned to the fire are largely engaged in mop up and rehabilitation operations.  That blaze, which is burning north of the town of Ruidoso, is estimated to encompass more than 44,000 acres and has claimed 242 homes and 12 commercial structures and outbuildings.

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