Xcel Energy shuts down power for 55,000 as precaution amid strong winds and high wildfire danger

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Electrical power lines in eastern Arapahoe County, June 7, 2023.

Xcel Energy on Saturday shut down parts of the power grid across the Front Range as a precautionary measure amid strong winds and low humidity across the region that could potentially fuel a dangerous and rapidly spreading wildfire.

The safety shut-offs started at 3 p.m. Saturday and are expected to last until noon Sunday and could affect about 55,000 customers, primarily those in Boulder County and parts of Broomfield, Douglas, Gilpin, Jefferson and Larimer counties, the company said.

Tyler Bryant, a spokesperson for Xcel — Colorado’s largest utility — said in an email that de-energizing power lines is a “last resort measure” to reduce wildfire risk. 

“We will not turn the power back on until the high fire risk has passed, conditions are safe and crews have visually inspected the line,” he said. 

Restoration times will depend on how much damage the wind does, he said. Customers can check the status of the outages on the utility’s website. Emergency officials say customers with medical problems that require oxygen should make sure they have enough bottles to last until Sunday and warned residents not to heat homes with gas or outdoor stoves.

National Weather Service forecasters have issued high wind and wildfire warnings for much of the Front Range and Interstate 25 corridor due to the high wind, which has gusted as high as 75 miles per hour southeast of Boulder and 69 mph near Broomfield. In the meantime, fire crews in Pueblo are making progress containing a grass fire and a separate blaze at the EVRAZ steel mill that ignited Friday.

Police in 2023 linked Xcel Energy’s power lines to one of two fires investigators said combined into the wind-whipped blaze that became the Marshall fire — the state’s most destructive in modern history. Representatives for Xcel dispute that its equipment sparked the Boulder County blaze. In March, the company acknowledged one of its downed power poles ignited the massive Smokehouse Creek fire that torched more than a million acres in Texas and Oklahoma.