Thousands of feet above the Las Vegas Valley, you’ll find a special type of peace on Mount Charleston. Rose Meranto would know—she’s lived on the mountain since the 1980’s. “This is it for me,” she said, expressing her love for her community. “Being on the mountain is my pride and joy.”
Rose’s joy could be disrupted though—she’s dependent on her oxygen tank, and this summer NV Energy could shut off her power for hours on end. It’s part of the company’s new protocol to avoid wildfires. On “high risk” days—so on days with high temperatures, high winds, and dry conditions, the utility company will shut off power on the mountain.
“We’ve got our freezers full of food, we’ve got medicine to be kept… there are so many implications,” Rose stressed.
Kevin Geraghty is the Senior Vice President of Operations with NV Energy. He says although a fire has not sparked on the company’s power lines doesn’t mean it’s not possible. “We’re just a little bit beyond the five-year anniversary of the Carpenter Fire which was extreme in this area,” Geraghty explained. “Imagine that same thing happening, but it’s a lot closer to where people live and it was caused by some ignition in a power line.”
Retired County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is a part-time resident of the mountain and is pleased with the dialogue between the company and its mountain customers. “If you’re gonna deal with something this necessary for safety you should involve the residents as well as the stakeholders, so police, fire, your first responders,” Giunchigliani stated.
NV Energy says it will give residents at least a two-day notice before cutting power. The company expects any outages to only last hours at a time, and promises to protect resources.
“We won’t cut power until we know w’eve protected communication and water supply for the community,” Geraghty explained. “We’ll make sure that if there’s not already backup generation there, we’ll mobilize generation.”
After the meeting, some residents, like Rose, still weren’t convinced, but await the end of the summer to see if the company keeps its word.
“Are they really looking out for our interests, you know?” asked Rose. “I’m a skeptic, sorry.”
NV Energy adds that if and when utilities are cut, it will open comfort centers on the mountain where residents can access power, cell service, and water. The company hopes to eventually move some power lines underground as a long-term solution.