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APS Powerline Sparks Small San Francisco Peaks Wildfire For Second Time In A Year

Screenshot/Matt McGrath, Twitter

More than two weeks ago firefighters extinguished a small wildfire on the San Francisco Peaks that started when a tree fell on a power line. It was the second such fire in the last year involving the line. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Recent heavy winds blew a tree onto the power line owned by Arizona Public Service Company that supplies the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort with electricity. Firefighters quickly contained the wildfire at about an acre-and-a-half and late-season moisture helped keep it small.

The area near Viet Springs is densely forested and Coconino National Forest officials say they work regularly with APS to thin dead trees and clear vegetation near the line.

Flagstaff District Ranger Matt McGrath says officials would prefer burying it, but that could be years away.

"Anytime we have a power line on the forest there is fire danger and we do everything we can to work with our partners to mitigate that as much as possible … This is not the first time this has happened and I think with the wind I’m sure this is not the last time it’s going to happen," McGrath says.

According to McGrath, the wildfire could have been more severe under drier conditions. APS says burying the line would be costly and challenging but it’s considering further fire mitigation.

Power lines elsewhere have come under increased scrutiny in recent years following several devastating California wildfires caused by neglected infrastructure owned by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.  

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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