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In the spring when conditions are just right, pole fires can keep our crews busy. But what exactly is a pole fire? And how do we respond? 

April showers bring … spring pole fires

Pole fires are a common cause of power outages during the spring months. When Edmonton is dusty and dirty after a long winter, sand and salt can cover the insulators that connect wires to the top of power poles. Add a bit of light rain or a snowstorm and the moisture can mix with the debris to create a conductive path for electricity to travel from the wires to the pole.

"The electricity will basically track and follow the dirt and it will go to a 'ground' or the pole. Once it hits the pole, it starts getting hot and starts on fire," said Doug, who works as a senior power lineman and crew chief.

Crews might only see one pole fire in an evening, and at other times, they might receive calls of multiple pole fires. Although they're most common after the first spring rain or a spring snowstorm, they can also pop up in the fall if we have a hot, dry summer.

 

Red alert response

Customers are usually the first to notice if ​a pole is smoldering or on fire, and call 9-​1-1 to alert the fire department. EPCOR crews work with fire officials on scene to put out the flames and assess the outage.

Sometimes the fire itself will knock out power. At other times, EPCOR crews must turn off power to the area to fix the pole, or if there is the potential for the pole to fall over. Safety is always our first concern!

Repairing the pole

Depending on the intensity of the fire and what part of the pole was damaged, crews might need to:

  • Temporarily repair a section of the pole by installing supports called "cross arms" until crews can replace the pole at a later date.
  • Replace the entire pole immediately. This is a lengthy repair that involves digging out the old pole and installing a brand new one.​