Don't be alarmed if you see a helicopter following powerlines through the Cochrane area at some point this week.

Starting today, AltaLink is conducting helicopter patrols to inspect power lines to ensure the safety and reliability of the electric system. The patrols are expected to wrap up by May 17.

“In advance, AltaLink apologizes for any disturbance or inconvenience to residents in the vicinity of the power lines that will be patrolled," states a new release issued late last week. "When conducting aerial surveys, AltaLink is mindful to minimize disruption to residences, area users, livestock and wildlife. Thank you for your patience and understanding,”

The patrols will also be conducted in the Airdrie, Rocky View County, Red Deer/Red Deer County, Rocky Mountain House. Mountain View County, Sundre, Crossfield, Foothills County, Okotoks, High River, Diamond Valley, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, and Kananaskis.

Recently, AltaLink announced it is taking action to protect Albertans from the risk of wildfire.

“As wildfires become more frequent and intense, reducing the likelihood that our system contributes to the ignition of a fire is a critical part of our job in delivering power safely to millions of Albertans,” states Gary Hart, AltaLink president and CEO, in a news release. “We’ve seen the devastation that a wildfire can cause to communities in Alberta and across North America and we are taking action to help prevent it from happening.”

Alberta experienced a record-breaking wildfire season in 2023 with more than 2.2 million hectares burned, the most in Alberta’s history, compared to the five-year average of 200,000 hectares.

AltaLink created its fire mitigation plan in 2019.

Measures include real-time analysis of weather conditions, increased inspections, enhanced vegetation management activities, asset upgrades, and establishing a last resort measure in extreme and dangerous weather conditions called a public safety power shut-off to de-energize facilities during times of extreme fire weather.

This year, drought conditions, especially in the southern part of the province, will increase the risk of wildfires. Alberta is already in stage 4 (out of 5) in its water shortage management response plan, a level that wasn’t reached until the later months of 2023.