Wisdom with Downed Wires

See it? If you look closely at the first picture, you will see what appears to be a small green wire running diagonally through the hedge, and laying on the fence. This is a primary power line, it carries 4,800 volts or more, and it will kill you if you come in contact with it. It may not arc, spark, smoke, or give you any other indication that it is live – until you come into contact with it – or in this case, an object lands on it. Other wires, terrain, brush, or in this case a fence can carry deadly voltage far from the actual point of contact. If you look at the second photo, you will notice every fence post is burned where it enters the ground. This is because that fence was charged to the same voltage as the primary line – meaning touching the fence has the same effect as directly grabbing the power line.

Now imagine being sent to investigate a report of lines down, in the dark, during a thunderstorm. Our job as the Fire Department is to determine the hazard, isolate the area, and contact the power company. When the Fire Department closes a roadway – in this case the wire was in the middle of the road as well – it is to protect the public. Electricity gives no second chances and does not care that a victim had no clue the hazard was even there. While road closures may create an inconvenience, the deadly consequences of contact with this voltage should outweigh a few minute detour.

Additionally, many times it is also necessary to divert pedestrian traffic in the area of the hazard. Even though the hazard may be on ones property, electricity does not respect property boundaries. The Fire Department is trained in assessing these incidents and establishing safe zones. Please do not add to our workload on scene by debating the merits of our established safety zones. Our sole interest is in protecting our residents and visitors. That’s why we are here.