Power lines to blame for wildfires

Power lines to blame for wildfires

15 January 2009

published by www.9news.com

USA — Authorities say two fires that burned more than 3,000 acres and destroyed one home were both caused by downed power lines.

The Neva Road Fire and the Olde Stage Fire broke out in Boulder County last week. In addition to the home, three outbuildings were also burned.

Thousands of people were evacuated as crews worked to contain the two large wildfires. High winds kept the fire spreading quickly and conditions would change fast on firefighters.

Investigators say the Neva Road Fire was started when a power line fell on a wire fence, energizing the fence and causing arcing and sparking, which set fire to a house and outbuilding at the intersection of North 45th Street and Neva Road. The house and outbuilding were destroyed by the fire.

Investigators with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and Xcel Energy say the Olde Stage Fire was caused by a cable line that was blown into contact with a power line. That created an arc that showered the ground with sparks, igniting the fire. The event was witnessed by an area resident who called the sheriff’s department and said the fire was spreading rapidly with the gusting winds.

The Olde Stage Fire was the larger of the two blazes and burned more than 2,500 acres, destroyed two barns and damaged several homes.

The cost of battling the blazes is still being determined.

Also for the first time on Wednesday, authorities released tapes of 911 calls residents made as the fires started to spread last week.

Dispatch: Are you calling about the fire?
Caller: Yes, it’s a fire!
Dispatch: OK, we are heading up that way.
Caller: OK, well our house is going to be burned up by the time you get here.
Dispatch: Is it in the grass or is it in your house?
Caller: It’s in the grass right behind our house. I mean literally right behind it.

One of the callers reported seeing one of the downed power lines.

Caller: An electrical pole is down.
Dispatch: OK, what’s on fire?
Caller: Right now, the fence.
Dispatch: The fence is on fire? How far away from the house is it?
Caller: Feet, a few feet.
Dispatch: OK, I want you guys to get out of the house right away. Do not go near that power line.

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