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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Lesson Learned, Lesson Passed On

I was riding with Gary in 579 when we got a call for arcing wires near downtown.  It got slightly more interesting when the dispatcher told us the feeder breaker had operated once and then closed again, so something more than a little spit and pop.  The dispatcher put the breaker in non-auto so if it tripped again it would not keep reclosing into a problem.

We were sort of out of position without many guys working, so it would be a bit of a delay.  Then I heard Engine 1 from Very Big City go en route, so someone had called 911 undoubtedly frightened by the show.

As we were rolling along, the tickets were rolling in, and I was pulling them up on the MDC to get some hints.  Our phone reps are uncomfortable paraphrasing much because of past incidents where they edited something important out, so they pretty much type into the trouble tickets what they hear on the phone.

Customer states lives right near substation, heard several loud booms in that direction and lights flickered, still have power.

Power line arcing on north side of 5th between Sampson and Flannery, looks like trying to catch on fire now.

Lines in front of this address are making very weird noises.

(I love those kinds of tickets, "weird noises", good stuff.)

Customer heard several very loud booms and saw two blinks, lights still on.

And just as we were getting close, the dispatcher called to advise the breaker had operated again and the circuit was out.  Darn.  Was hoping to see something good!

So we pulled up, and Engine 1 had closed the block down, which was the right call while it was burning up.  Now that the circuit is dead, not much for serious hazards, and we told them they could open the road and take their cones, thanks for coming out.  Turned out we had an overhead primary switch that burned pretty good until it melted off a jumper, which then fell into the next phase below and blew the circuit.  The glass was all carboned up and lots of charring on the pole, with some burnt debris in the street.  But the big drama was over.

Engine 1's Captain walked up to our truck as his guys made their way back up the street with their cones to make small talk and bid us adieu.  He got a little close to the pole, and Gary said he might not want to be under that switch.  Either he didn't hear us or he didn't take it seriously, but about 0.2 seconds later he jolted like he'd been stung by a bee and darted back into the street, slapping at his shoulder, "Ouch! Something hot hit me!" He was looking at the ground to find what he had knocked off his shoulder.

One of his crew said "Cap! Your shoulder is still smoking!"  Amusement ensued while the Captain danced a little circular jig in the middle of the street while tearing off his uniform shirt.  Turns out the creosote treatment on this pole was generous, and the fire had melted a lot of it so that it dribbled down to the insulators on the side of the pole and then dripped to the ground.  Just because the fire was out more than five minutes ago does not eliminate the threat.

No helmet, no coat, no PPE.  Lucky he wasn't seriously injured like if it had landed on his head or ears, only a slight 1st degree burn and a destroyed Class B shirt.

When the serviceman stays stay back, there's a reason!  We all have our moments of oopsie so we're not here to poke at the Captain too hard, but for him I am sure it is a lesson learned and lesson passed on to his people for the rest of his career.  And now, to you too.

Thanks for reading.