Power line snaps, ignites West Linn brush fire

Power line snaps, ignites West Linn brush fire

16 July 2008

published by www.clackamasreview.com

USA — A power line snapped Wednesday morning and fell to the ground, igniting brush fires on both sides of the Willamette River.

The brush fire on the Oregon City side of the river went out on its own. A fire on the West Linn side spread onto dry grass and shrubs.

About 2,500 West Linn customers lost power for a short time. Power was restored to customers just before noon. PGE crews continued to work throughout the day to repair the downed line.

The fire broke out at 9:45 a.m. when a crane belonging to Wilsonville Concrete was clearing debris from the river near the Sullivan Plant and hit the Portland General Electric high-voltage power line that spanned the river. The line snapped, sending electricity pulsing in the water.

Firefighters from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue contained the fire, but steep terrain and navigating the downed wire made things difficult. The West Linn Paper Company mill above the river was the nearest building to the fire, but it was never threatened.

When firefighters arrived, they found a large patch of grass and brush burning near the base of a transformer. Because of steep terrain, water supply challenges, hot weather and power-line hazards, additional crews were brought to the scene, including firefighters from Clackamas County Fire District No. 1 and Lake Oswego Fire Department.

Fire commanders’ first concerns were surrounding the fire and avoiding high-voltage power lines which were still energized. Firefighters were broken up into groups to fight the fire from each side, and spray the perimeter of the area to keep the fire from spreading uphill.

Without a fire hydrant near the scene, firefighters used water tenders to shuttle water and feed hose lines. West Linn Police officers shut down Willamette Falls Drive for nearly two hours to keep the lanes clear for water supply operations.

Because the fire spread to terrain above a high cliff wall, it was difficult for fire commanders to determine whether the fire had spread to the base of the cliff. Boats from the Water Rescue Consortium were used to relay information, as well as restrict recreational boat traffic on the Willamette River due to concerns of the down power line that was still in the water.

Using images broadcast by a television news helicopter, a fire commander was also able to see other hazards, such as power lines, and relay the information to ground crews.

Nearly 50 firefighters and responders worked to extinguish the fire. A coating of fire resistant foam was also used to prevent hot spots from flaring up.

There were no injuries.

Fire commanders worked closely with PGE and the West Linn Paper Company during the incident. The mill’s operations were significant impacted because of power outages. The mill lost a day of production because of damaged power line.

Fire crews plan to monitor the hillside for flare-ups throughout the day.

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