With the arrival of spring comes the practice of controlled ditch burning. At ECI REC, we understand it’s a common and valuable technique to prepare for planting and manage natural areas. But each year, we experience fire-damaged poles due to mishandled burns.
Any scorching of poles causes structural damage to Cooperative equipment. Electrical poles are covered with a moisture barrier to prevent deterioration at the core of the pole. Damage to this coating shortens pole life and leaves the pole more susceptible to outages. In worst-case scenarios, the pole becomes a safety hazard.
Members responsible for damage to poles or other Cooperative equipment as a result of ditch burning are financially liable. The cost of a new electrical pole and its installation is about $2,000.
Tips for safe burning
- Be aware of the locations of poles, anchor guy assemblies, underground cabinets, and other important Cooperative equipment.
- Have a plan that includes irrigation methods and smoke management procedures. Consider protective equipment and the natural characteristics of the site. Do not burn near public roads or airports; this can create dangerous visibility hazards.
- Cut all grass and weeds near power poles. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises the removal of all dead tress within 20 feet of the planned blaze. Cut all grass within four feet of the pole.
- Water the area near the poles, including the pole base, but be careful to keep water out of power lines.
- Green, or newer, poles are more susceptible to burning—use extra caution.
- Pay attention to the wind and weather conditions, and change your plans if necessary.
If a pole catches fire, call the fire department and alert your utility provider to handle the possible electrical dangers. A burning pole could be an electrocution hazard to those nearby, and downed lines could spark fires in unintended directions. Even if you think you have put the fire out, alert ECI REC. The creosote, a preservative, on the inside of the pole could still be burning it from the inside out.
Ditch burning can be accomplished safely when members use caution and plan carefully. ECI REC personnel are happy to assist members who have questions about how to safely conduct a controlled burn this spring. Call 877-850-4343.
Based on content from SafeElectricity.org.