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When failure occurs…

Utility pole fires are common and should be treated with great respect by firefighters. Pole fires are normally caused by the failure of insulators, switches, catastrophic failure of transformers or oil-filled switching equipment.

Arriving at the scene of a pole fire. What to do?
Arriving at the scene of a pole fire. What to do?

Some poles used in the utility industry today are highly conductive as a result of preservatives used to treat the wood. The treatment also causes the poles to burn rapidly and sustain fire easily. These poles can be easily recognized by their distinct green colour.

When pole fires are caused by insulator or switch failure, current will be able to flow to the pole through the metal hardware components of the insulator or switch.

Since the pole may be highly conductive due to the preservative treatment, dangerous levels of voltage may be present at the base of the pole.

When pole fires are caused by catastrophic failure of transformers or other oil-filled equipment, the situation is compounded. Current may be leaking to the pole as in the first case, plus oil from the equipment could fuel the fire.

In the above cases, the six following actions are recommended:

1. When the call is received at the station reporting a pole fire, the information should be reported to the nearest utility owning the line as quickly as possible. State the exact location of the pole.

Note: This number has been put in place strictly for the use of fire and police personnel and should only be used for emergency situations.

2. On arrival at the scene of a pole on fire, firefighters or police personnel should carefully survey the situation. Do not place your vehicles under or near wires that may burn off or fall due to the fire.

3. Crowd control is extremely important. People should be kept well away from the affected area as a caution against wires that may burn off and fall, or equipment that may explode.

4. Firefighters should hook up and stand ready to protect adjacent properties.

5. Do not apply a direct stream of water on a pole fire.A non-conductive extinguishing agent is best to control the fire should it become necessary to protect property or life.

Note: A pole fire that is caused by a flow of current cannot be put out until the electricity is turned off and the flow of current stopped.

6. Electric utility personnel who respond to the scene of the pole fire will make the conditions electrically safe. When they confirm that conditions are safe, firefighters may then proceed to extinguish the fire using conventional means including water.


Utility pole fire (VIDEO)

Cant see this video? Click here to watch it on Youtube.

Reference: Electrical Safety Handbook for Emergency Personnel – NB Power Health and Safety Department

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Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry fascilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming. Present on

4 Comments


  1. Chris R Sprague
    Aug 21, 2018

    I have a major and legitimate, and life saving product that will extremely reduce catastrophes, due to transformer/powerpole fires. Ive thought, engineered, fabricated, tested and confirmed that it works. And am in the patent stage as we speak. Shortly these recources will be on the market. The first “intellect” behind the item, also carries with it many other products to be made on a consumer level as well. Its a definte 100% assett in uncontrolled/accidental, and fatal fires, wild fires here in Northern California


  2. Germile
    Aug 11, 2014

    This are great information and very helpful in everyday life in the field. Thanks.


  3. Dave
    Jun 24, 2014

    great info. I work at Power utility in Australia and they have no details available as what you have put to gether.


  4. Vicente Martinez
    May 21, 2014

    Thank you for this articles they are very helpful

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