It’s been a long, hot summer. There isn’t a drop of rain in the long-term forecast and the breezes that come along are dry and hot as an oven. The wind picks up the dehydrated soil and dusts it around, including on the tops of utility poles, where it settles and accumulates over the summer.
That shouldn’t matter, right? Utility poles are designed to weather the elements. Dirt is no big deal. But under just the right conditions, that dirt is enough to catch a power pole on fire.
While it’s an infrequent occurrence, wood power pole fires can happen. After a long spell of dry weather, dirt covering the insulators that connect the wires to the top of power poles becomes conductive when exposed to moisture, such as a rain shower, creating a path for electricity to travel from the wires to the pole. If this “dirt path” gets hot enough, the wood pole catches fire. This phenomenon can happen anytime there is build up on the insulators, such as after the winter thaw or following a long, hot summer.
What should you do if you spot a pole fire? Call 911 immediately and then call Avista. Maintain a safe distance from the pole and stay away from any wires that may fall to the ground. Crews will de-energize the line to stop the fire’s ability to persist.