CEO’s Message — August 2019

Defending Reliable Electricity

Headshot of Clay FitchBillboards along Interstate 80 urge homeowners to create “defensible space” to reduce the risk of losing their home to fire. Simply put, defensible space means managing flammable materials to prevent the spread of fire. Defensible space is an important concept not only in fire safety but in other situations.

Your electric cooperative, Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC), creates a defensible space around the power lines that serve your homes and businesses for several reasons. First and foremost, all of our power lines comply with the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) to prevent accidental contacts and to ensure that WREC delivers reliable, affordable and clean electricity in the safest way possible.

Our “Commitment To Zero Contacts” safety initiative focuses on the human factor of electrical safety. Despite our best efforts to build an electrical system that meets or exceeds the requirements of the NESC, some people make dangerous decisions that risk severe injury and even death. Commitment To Zero Contacts is designed not only to keep our line workers safe, it’s intended to keep other employees and our members safe as well.

For decades we have trimmed trees to maintain a defensible space around our power lines to prevent accidental contacts and to prevent outages. Tree trimming crews strive to maintain the beauty of the trees, but appearance is second to safety. Scorching August temperatures may make Fall seem far away, but contract crews will begin trimming trees soon.

The growing threat of catastrophic fires has motivated your Board of Directors and employees to take defensible space to a new level. For the past few years, your Board of Directors has authorized a budget that includes removing low-growing vegetation from our rights-of-way. Initially, mowing brush and weeds growing under our power lines was only intended to prevent wildfires from burning our power lines down. It has since become a way to reduce the risk of starting a fire. Studies are currently underway by federal land management agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of using right-of-way clearing to create a line of defense for fire crews. Its a concept that WREC supports because it fits with our goal to provide the most safe and reliable service possible and it could protect the homes and property of our members.

The graphic below illustrates how you can create defensible space for your own home.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Graphic displaying how to create a defensible space for your home
Defensible space is the required space between a structure and a wlidland area that, under normal conditions, creates a sufficient buffer to slow or halt the spread of wildfire to a structure. It protects the home from igniting due to direct flame or radiant heat. Defensible space is essential for structure survivability during wildland fire conditions. For more information about defensible space zones and preparedness techniques, visit the Firewise Communities website at