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Section A: General News


Weather blamed for pole fires


Weather blamed for pole fires
WCN/WILLIAM J. GIBBS JR.• Reprints at wilsoncountynews.com Workers from Floresville Electric Light & Power System extinguish a utility-pole fire on U.S. 181 near the intersection of Stuart Road in Elmendorf Jan. 2.


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Wilson County News
January 6, 2009
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A rash of utility-pole fires Jan. 2 created some tense moments for area volunteer firefighters and workers from the Floresville Electric Light & Power System (FELPS) and caused loss of service to some customers.

At least four such fires were reported throughout the morning and early afternoon involving poles on Labus Lane northeast of Poth, on F.M. 539 northeast of Floresville, on Jolly Road near Lone Oak, and on U.S. 181 near Stuart Road in Elmendorf.

FELPS General Manager David McMillan said ongoing dry weather has caused an accumulation of dust on cross arms and insulators. This dust is usually washed away by a significant rainfall, but light drizzle and fog similar to what occurred that day causes the dust to become a conductor. The resulting static electricity, which usually builds up around where the cross arm is bolted to the wooden pole, then causes a fire.

“That’s normal,” said FELPS Line Superintendent Paul Herrera.

“This is not unusual for us, or any other utility,” McMillan said.

It is unknown exactly how many customers the pole fires affected, McMillan said. He said the problem could have been much worse if not for the quick action of utility-line workers. If the pole on U.S. 181 had burned through and the power lines had come down, electricity could have been cut off for as far as 15 miles.

“This is the main feeder from the Eagle Creek substation,” Herrera said. “It supplies power to Eagle Creek, Cimarron, Whispering Oaks, Tower Lake, Creekwood, and Oak Hills.”

Property owners or motorists who encounter a utility-pole fire should not try to put it out themselves, McMillan said. Instead, they should call FELPS at 830-216-7000.

“If the fire involves more than the pole top, then call the fire department,” he said.
 

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