Frequently Asked Questions
Review the most frequently
asked questions about the
Wildfire Mitigation Program
As part of our commitment to safety, Xcel Energy continues to develop a comprehensive program designed to help protect lives, homes and Colorado’s forests from the threat of wildfire. In doing so, we are helping to create a sustainable future for Coloradans who rely on us to power their lives every day.
Our cross-functional wildfire mitigation team works together to:
- Accelerate inspections in identified Wildfire Risk Zones.
- Use drones and LiDAR-equipped helicopters to inspect overhead power lines.
- Replace poles and equipment that pose an increased wildfire risk.
- Explore the use of innovative technologies to increase situational awareness and further reduce wildfire risk.
- Analyze the strength and ability of transmission and distribution structures to withstand higher-than-normal ice loads and wind speeds.
- Perform enhanced vegetation management around structures, poles and equipment.
- Improve protocols and fire-safe work practices to minimize wildfire risk.
- Work directly with our communities and first responders to inform, educate and further refine our program.
Wildfire Risk Zones have been developed to define areas within Xcel Energy–Colorado’s service territory that are susceptible to high intensity, severe wildfire behavior and are based on potential damages should a wildfire originate or burn in the area.
Data informing the risk zone model includes, but is not limited to:
- Vegetation cover and fire-behavior fuel models from the interagency LANDFIRE program.
- Topographic data from the United States Geological Survey.
- Historical weather patterns from the National Weather Service.
- Long-term simulations of large wildfire behavior from the United States Forrest Service.
- Community data from the United States Census Bureau and Department of Energy.
- Colorado’s Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal.
Ward Electric, Hooper Electric, Sturgeon Electric and EDM International are authorized contractors for Xcel Energy and perform critical wildfire mitigation work. Please do not approach the contractors if you see them in your community. If you have questions about the work they are performing, contact the Wildfire Mitigation Team at 833-352-0087 or [email protected].
At Xcel Energy, we’re working hard every day to reduce wildfire threats across our service area to help keep you and your community safe. When critical system maintenance and upgrades require a planned electric power outage in your area, we will notify you a minimum of 48 hours in advance with a call to the phone number associated with your Xcel Energy account. Visit MyAccount or call 800-895-4999 to confirm we have your correct phone number and that you are signed up for outage notifications. Thank you in advance for your patience and support of our crews as they make these important safety improvements.
We understand how disruptive it is for customers to lose power. That is why we are working hard to support our customers and communities, reduce the impact of outages and help you be prepared. We encourage customers to update their contact information and to sign up for outage notifications through MyAccount or by calling 800-895-4999. We also encourage customers to review our Outage Preparation Tips.
Xcel Energy has implemented a Wildfire Safety Settings pilot program in limited areas of our electric distribution system. These settings use upgraded wildfire devices to operate our system more conservatively when wildfire conditions are elevated. By enabling more sensitive protection settings in limited areas during times of increased fire risk, we help keep our customers and communities safe. Please keep in mind that wildfire risk may exist year-round in some areas.
As part of our Wildfire Safety Settings pilot program, we have upgraded the electric distribution system in limited areas with wildfire devices that support more sensitive protection settings during periods of high wildfire risk. These upgrades allow the system in these areas to interrupt the flow of energy through a power line segment when a fault is detected, such as a tree branch or other object contacting the power line, to prevent the potential ignition of ground fuel. When the system is in Wildfire Safety Settings mode, the line remains de-energized until crews can patrol the area to ensure it is safe to restore service. Communities in these limited areas may experience more frequent or longer outages in these areas during the pilot program.
Currently, the pilot program is active in limited areas in and around the Colorado communities of:
- Blue River
It is not possible to notify customers in advance of outages caused by these enhanced safety settings, so we encourage customers to update their contact information and sign up for outage notifications at MyAccount or by calling 800-895-4999. If an outage is triggered by our Wildfire Safety Settings, this will ensure we can communicate the outage’s status and estimated restoration time.
Our network of rapid detect camera systems covers more than 1.5 million acres across Colorado. These systems are deployed on high vantage points and continuously scan the landscape using 360-degree, ultra-high-definition cameras and artificial intelligence to spot, evaluate and signal wildfire activity within a 15-mile radius. As soon as an incident is detected, a notification is sent to Xcel Energy and first responders, providing detailed visuals and location triangulation. Wildfire detection cameras offer greater visibility for first responders in hard-to-monitor terrain, providing critical early and real-time situational awareness when a wildfire ignites, allowing them to rapidly respond to fire events with greater accuracy and control.
To prioritize and target wildfire mitigation efforts, we are continually improving our wildfire risk modeling and evaluating new information to further refine our mitigation activities. Our latest wildfire risk modeling software, Technosylva Wildfire Analyst, uses advanced fire spread modeling algorithms and dynamic weather data to enhance wildfire risk identification and estimate more accurate potential consequence estimates. Each day, the software evaluates current and forecasted weather conditions, detailed wind speed/direction, moisture levels and ground fuel conditions to estimate the direction and extent of where a wildfire might spread if an ignition were to occur. This risk modeling and simulation also provides valuable insights on the potential consequences of wildfires as fire weather conditions dynamically change.
Our team conducts enhanced vegetation management work which includes trimming and clearing trees, shrubs, dense grasses and other vegetation around structures, corridors and equipment throughout identified Wildfire Risk Zones. Vegetation management helps reduce power outages and allows our crews to work safely on power lines.
Trees near power lines can cause downed lines, power outages and fire ignition risk. That is why Xcel Energy prunes and removes trees near power lines in your community. Tree pruning is the selective removal of branches that are too close to a power line, or that will grow too close to a power line before the next maintenance cycle. Xcel Energy prunes and/or removes trees on our regular maintenance schedule – usually between every three to five years. There is no charge for the tree work that we or our contractors perform on your property. Our goal is to provide safe, reliable electric service while also taking the best possible care of a valuable natural resource.
Trees cause outages in two ways – mechanical and electrical. Mechanical damage refers to entire trees or portions of trees failing and physically damaging facilities (e.g., knocking down wires or poles). Because trees can be conductive, electrical outages can also occur. These interruptions are caused when a portion of a tree becomes a short-circuit path for electricity to flow, causing a protective device to operate and stop the flow of electricity. This could also ignite a fire if a spark meets dry debris or fuel. Trees must be maintained at an adequate distance from the conductors to prevent electric service interruptions or ignition.
Do not attempt to prune any tree that could touch an energized power line. It is dangerous, may be against the law and must be done by a qualified line clearance professional. That is why we have contracted qualified vegetation management companies to perform the work. Landowners should never attempt to prune or remove tree limbs near or adjacent to any power lines. Please call us at 800-895-4999 if you are concerned about vegetation near a power line on your property.
Most of our tree work occurs as part of routine distribution maintenance cycles (every three to five years). In these situations, where the work zone is accessible by truck and chipper, small limbs and brush are hauled away. This brush may be left on your curbside to be hauled by a separate crew within a few days. Larger pieces of wood are cut into manageable lengths and left on your property for your use.
Along our transmission rights-of-way, debris resulting from our clearing activities is left onsite to naturally decompose. This also returns nutrients to the soil and reduces the chance of soil erosion. Our contractors will collect and dispose of any brush that falls into roadways, waterways, fences, lawns, pastures or other maintained areas. Removing debris because of an emergency or storm situation, hazard tree mitigation or after customer-requested work is the tree owner’s responsibility.
A crew will typically arrive at your property within a few weeks to perform tree work. The crew is instructed to perform a courtesy door knock to let you know they will be on your property and to discuss the work they will be doing. If you have questions or concerns before the crew arrives, contact the person identified in the notification or contact the Wildfire Mitigation Program. See the vegetation management section on our website for more information.
Our goal is to avoid disturbing properties to the extent practicable as we conduct program activities. However, some activities may require disturbance to nearby sites such as tree pruning and removal. Except for vegetation pruning and removal, we will restore public and private properties to preexisting conditions as required by local jurisdictional standards. Work will be completed in accordance with local, county and state regulations.
To help keep our customer and communities informed, our outreach and education efforts include hosting public open houses and providing program updates at community meetings and events. They also include conducting outreach at the state and county level and working with local sheriffs, fire chiefs and offices of emergency management. We will continue to conduct community outreach to inform the public and move the program forward. Please visit the community outreach page for more information.
The team is actively meeting with communities across the state, especially those in identified Wildfire Risk Zones, to share our plan. The team attends community meetings and works with county governments to describe what the program activities entail and explain why customers are seeing additional Xcel Energy crews working in the area. Emergency responders and fire chiefs are very aware of wildfire risks, so we consider them key stakeholders, and solicit their feedback and share knowledge. We also maintain a variety of communication channels to receive public comments and questions including a toll-free hotline (833-352-0087), email address and website.