Decades of data will help Rocky Mountain Power better predict wildfires

Jul 7, 2023, 7:59 AM

Power crews burying lines to prevent fire in Big Cottonwood Canyon. (KSL-TV)


SALT LAKE CITY — A game changer for Rocky Mountain Power in the fight to stay in front of mother nature as some new software is allowing them to predict wildfire dangers like never before.

RMP meteorology manager Steven Vanderburgh said the new technology gives a 30-year hourly weather history and mixes that with today’s data to predict dangers, outages, and wildfires. He said it took 16 months of 24/7 number crunching by supercomputers to put it all together.

“It’s saying that even though yes, it’s warm and it’s dry. We’re really not in a situation where there’s a lot of wildfire risk, particularly as you get north of I-70,” Vanderburgh said while demonstrating how the software worked.

“It looks back at those 30 years and says, ‘Hey, this is the second strongest wind gusts that has ever been forecast for this location in the last 30 years. And this is what that means in terms of your potential for outages, this is what it means for your wildfire danger,’” he explained.

Vanderburgh said the program also helps them to predict where they can shut down sections of the power grid to prevent wildfires from happening from blown down power lines or flying sparks. He said it would allow them to stay in front of the danger rather than trying to play catch up.

“It’s about having all the players and all the pieces in the right place at the right time to be able to respond to any curveball Mother Nature throws our way, to mitigate that risk of having a spark and wildfire,” he said. “That allows us to strategically place all of our folks in the field, all of our folks here in our emergency operations center, in the right place at the right time ahead of time.



We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Two buck deer in northern Utah. Photo credit: Jim Shuler...

Mark Jones

DWR offers tips for hunters as big game hunting seasons approaches

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources offers hunters a few reminders before leaving home.

9 days ago

(CNN) — The number of people who died in the massive wildfires that torched parts of Maui last m...

Taylor Romine and Aya Elamroussi

Advanced DNA testing prompts officials to revise Maui wildfires death toll to 97, down from 115

The Hawaii governor said Friday that the death count from the Maui wildfires is down to 97 from 115.

12 days ago

HONOLULU (AP) — Most of West Maui will officially reopen to travelers Oct. 8 under a new wildfi...

Associated Press

Most of West Maui will welcome back visitors next month under a new wildfire emergency proclamation

Part of the island’s western coastline has been closed to visitors since devastating wildfires killed at least 115 people last month.

18 days ago

Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson have committed $10 million to make direct payments to people on Ma...

THALIA BEATY Associated Press

Oprah, Dwayne Johnson launch $10 million fund for Maui residents

The People's Fund of Maui will give $1,200 a month to adults not able to return to their primary residences because of the recent wildfires.

25 days ago

Hazy air in and around Salt Lake City on Friday, May 19, 2023. Photo credit: Scott Winterton/Desere...

Tom Haraldsen

Hazy air arrived in Utah Wednesday, won’t be here long

Smoke from wildfires in the Pacific Northwest arrived in northern Utah on Wednesday. KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank says the hazy air will be gone by Thursday.

28 days ago

The Thompson Ridge wildfire is pictured. Offiials say that, as of the publication date, it was the ...

Don Brinkerhoff

Officials say the Utah 2023 wildfire season was “normal”

Utah Division of Forestry officials thank moisture and the public for a manageable wildfire season in 2023.

28 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Decades of data will help Rocky Mountain Power better predict wildfires