Downed power lines often lead to homes without power, road closures and potentially dangerous situations. However, firefighters are more concerned with the conditions, than the downed line.
“When that line comes down, it is live,” Chief Dennis Hoke, Illinois Valley Fire, said.
A power line fell and started a fire after getting hit with a branch in Grants Pass Monday. Luckily, firefighters were able to put it out quickly. But power lines can cause more hazardous situations, even if they do not appear to be active.
“A lot of times they’re not showing any signs of being active. They could just be a line on the ground, there’s no arcing or sparking, but they are still live,” Austin Prince, Rural Metro Fire Department, said.
While downed lines have caused some of the west’s most destructive fires, like the Camp Fire in Paradise, firefighters say the lines themselves aren’t their biggest concern.
“The cause of the ignition is not as concerning as the conditions that push a fire out of control,” Prince said.
Heat and wind are often the reasons a fire spreads.
“If firefighters are going to be worried about something, it’s not power lines, it’s the wind that might create a fire to get out of control,” Prince said.
A downed power line can also lead to road closures.
“Our biggest challenge is getting people to understand we have to close the road down when we have power lines across, across the road and getting people to stop and understand that we can’t let them go through and they have to detour around it,” Hoke said.
However, in more rural areas, detours sometimes aren’t an option.
“They have to wait until PPL clears the line,” Hoke said.
Pacific Power suggests you stay at least a pole-length’s away from a downed line and assume it’s still live, just in case. If you see a downed line or a potentially hazardous situation, call the power company. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
Anna Weeks is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oregon State University with a degree in Digital Communication Arts and a minor in writing. Previously, she interned with the National Association of Broadcasters at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.
Originally from the Portland area, Anna is excited to explore Southern Oregon. In her free time, she can be found reading, running or watching sports.