The price of Portland General Electric Co. shares tumbled Sept. 10, a day after following a press conference in which an Oregon state fire official said electric lines southeast of Portland, Ore., were involved in major fires in the forested region of the Cascade Range.
Portland General shares finished the Sept. 10 trading day at $34.38, down 9.86%, on more than 13x average daily trading volume. At one point, share values were down about 13%, dipping just below $32.
In a "flash note," analysts at Guggenheim Securities LLC reported that during a Sept. 9 press briefing Oregon Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said there were unconfirmed reports that power lines in the region of the Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires were involved. "We note that this is outside of PGE's distribution service territory, to the south along the Santiam River," Guggenheim said. "Per our conversations with management, there are no indications that PGE equipment was involved in any fires to date."
Guggenheim analysts said the stock price drop was likely an "overreaction."
During the press conference with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Ruiz-Temple said fire officials worked with utilities throughout the night of Sept. 8 to shut off electric service when firefighters started to see fire coming into Santiam Canyon in Marion County, Ore.
The fires were due east of Salem, Ore., in the Cascade Range on the east side of Willamette Valley, according to a map of the fires provided by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group of federal agencies.
High winds on Sept. 7 and 8 knocked out service to more than 200,000 Portland General customers. On Sept. 9, the company, also referred to as PGE, said it had shut off service in nine high-risk areas to assist firefighters and said it had "received unconfirmed reports that some fires in the region may have been started by electrical equipment affected by heavy winds and debris."
Midafternoon on Sept. 10, Portland General reported more than 27,000 customers without service, according to its website.
Consumers Power Inc., a consumer-owned cooperative that serves customers in a half-dozen counties in Oregon, reported that its crews continued to work Sept. 10 to restore power to its customers after fires encroached on its service territory.
According to state fire officials, several electrical lines and transformers were destroyed in extremely high winds that began Sept. 7. "Originally named the Beachie Creek fire, it has been renamed the Santiam Fire acknowledging that the Beachie Creek Fire no longer was the main cause of rapid-fire growth and was instead fed by a series of small fires largely caused by downed power lines and other ignition sources throughout the area," according to a bulletin co-authored by officials of the NorthWest Interagency Incident Management Team and State Fire Marshal.
Guggenheim said the Bonneville Power Administration operates a 500-kV transmission line through the heart of the Santiam Fire's western flank and PGE owns a 230-kV line along the Santiam River, which was on Sept. 10 the southern border of the combined fire. Consumers Power operates a distribution system in this region, Guggenheim said.