How Do Power Lines Cause Fires?

How Do Power Lines Cause Fires

How Power Lines Cause Fires

When a wildfire starts, people often assume that it is caused by a human. While humans do cause many fires – either accidentally by throwing a cigarette butt or on purpose, as is the case in arson – sometimes there are other causes. One common cause of wildfires is power lines.

The media has reported that power lines are likely to blame for the recent North Bay fires in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. These destructive fires started on the evening of October 8, 2017, as emergency calls started pouring into 911 call centers. Within a 90-minute period, fire crews were dispatched to 10 separate locations.

Before all of this happened, emergency dispatchers had received calls describing electrical transformer explosions and falling power lines. Wind gusts in the area were hurricane strength, peaking at 75 mph. The wind caused poles to break, damaging wires and other utility infrastructure.

Most Common Causes of Power Line Fires

There are several ways in which fires start from power lines:

  • Downed lines. These are one of the most common causes of power line fires. Downed power lines are not “dead.” They are often energized, which means that any contact with them can cause electrical shock or fire. These downed power lines can fall onto dry land and cause a fire to start. If the surrounding areas are also dry, fire can quickly spread.
  • Contact with vegetation. If a power line comes into contact with a tree branch or falls to the ground, a fire can result. Fires also tend to start when a branch spans across two conductors. This can produce a significant amount of electrical energy which can burn the branch and break the power line.
  • Equipment failures. Transformers, switches, and insulators often last for decades. However, circuits have thousands of components, and sometimes these components fail. They may spark or burn combustibles, leading to fires.
  • Conductor slap. This type of event happens when two conductors hit each other. Conductors usually are spaced pretty far apart, though, so this is rare but has happened on occasion While not common, conductor slap can cause hot particles to fall to the ground and start fires.

Power Line Safety Tips

As seen in the case with the North Bay fires, a power line can cause a fire that can burn a significant amount of land and destroy homes, businesses, landscaping and cause catastrophic injuries and even death. You can do your part to prevent a future tragedy by following these tips:

  • Let your utility company know if any trees or branches are interfering with power lines.
  • Treat all power lines as though they are live. Do not touch them or operate machinery near them.
  • Be on the lookout for downed power lines after a storm. Let the utility company know right away to prevent a fire. Do not touch the power line or drive over it.
  • If a fire does start from a power line, do not use water but try to contain it if possible. Let others know to stay clear and call the fire department and utility company.

How To Make A Claim If Your Property Is Destroyed By Wildfires

Contact the North Bay Fire Lawyers at Nadrich & Cohen for a free consultation. We and our legal team have experience pursuing property and injury claims on behalf of victims of wildfires, gas explosions, refinery fires and other tragedies throughout Northern California.

Call today for a free and confidential case evaluation to discuss your property damage or personal injury claim. Call (707) 525-1188, complete the contact form on this page or use the live chat feature. Don’t wait, call today.


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