Castle Valley Comments
March 13, 2014
by Ron Drake
Mar 13, 2014 | 526 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Utah State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued a warning about early season wildfires that have been caused by private burning. The news release states: “Fire officials are issuing a caution as warmer weather arrives. Already this year, a handful of fires that were initially ignited by individuals wanting to clear dead grass or dispose of organic waste have escaped control when they were not being tended and flared up or when unexpected winds carried embers into dry grass.

“Every spring, fire departments throughout Utah respond to dozens of fenceline and debris burns that escape control. These fires destroy rangeland, private property and homes. As conditions dry out, these are typically the first wildland fires of the season and they are all preventable. Fire management officers recommend taking some simple precautions before igniting to ensure fewer escaped fires.”

Their recommendations include clearing away vegetation to create firebreaks between burn areas and adjacent fields, structures and trees. Never burn on windy days, check the weather forecast and plan to have the fire out cold before afternoon winds develop. Keep a charged hose and a shovel nearby or at least 5-gallon water buckets. Never leave the fire unattended and notify the Grand County Sheriff’s Office of your intention to burn by calling 435-259-8115.

While most people in Castle Valley are conscientious of the dangers of burning tumbleweeds and yard debris, the possibility always exists that a controlled burn can get out of control and spread to unintended areas. The fire department has responded to many of these types of fires over the years.

The warning by the DNR is intended for all areas of the state but some areas have large ranches and farms that need to burn their irrigation ditches to allow a free, unobstructed flow of water to their fields and open burning is more common. To view the complete letter from the DNR and to learn of the laws concerning open burning, the Castle Valley Fire Department has a link on their website at castlevalleyfire.org.

***

Castle Valley residents were plagued with numerous power blinks during the early morning hours last Wednesday and Thursday, March 5 and 6. After nearly 10 hours without power the week before, the latest event was a series of episodes where the power blinked off and on for about an hour each day beginning about 6 a.m.

Electricity comes to Castle Valley from the Rattlesnake Subdivision, south of Moab near U.S. 191. The line goes through the community of La Sal and proceeds over the La Sal Mountains to Castleton and Castle Valley then along the Colorado River to the state line, feeding electricity to homes, ranches and communities along the way. The line is 125 miles long, the longest distribution line under Rocky Mountain Power’s ownership, so when the power goes out it sometimes takes the linemen a long time to find the problem. That was the case last Feb. 28 during the 10-hour outage.

The power outage in February and the latest two power events that affected 550 customers along the line last week was caused by a newly installed reclosure, a protective device that protects the distribution line. If the reclosure detects a fault, it will momentarily cut the power to protect the lines. That was the case during the Feb. 28 10-hour outage when the reclosure indicated a problem and activated to cut the power off. The line crew patrolled the line but a problem was not found and they began looking for a technical problem with the reclosure itself. Later, during the March 5 and 6 events, it was obvious that a problem still existed and they took it back off-line.

Dave Eskelsen of Rocky Mountain Power said the reclosure protective devices are complicated in nature. They want the line to be protected from physical damage but likewise it shouldn’t be so sensitive that it goes out frequently. It is designed to detect disturbances and cut the power momentary then most of the time put it back in service without disruption of service.

Eskelsen said that the utility is actively working on the problem. Their engineers are working with the manufacturer to come up with a solution. The reclosure is still out of service, but there are breakers, fuses, and other protective devices in place to protect the line but with such a long power line, it doesn’t have the level of protection that is desired with the added protection of the reclosure. Eskelsen said that he recognizes that people have a right to expect reliable service and he apologizes for the inconvenience caused by this latest situation.

***

Thirty years ago this week, this column featured Serwind Netzler, who, along with his wife, Cheryl, and two children, Heidi and Carl, moved to Castle Valley to operate their mail-order business. They ran their business, Trevor Thomas of New Zealand, out of their home, the present Castle Valley Inn Bed and Breakfast, and featured an extensive line of products from New Zealand. Local residents were hired to collate and stuff literature into envelopes to be mailed to potential high-end customers nationwide.

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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