Spring brings risk of outages caused by pole fires

This article was published in April 2022 and may be outdated.

Our long, chilly, snowy winter is thankfully coming to an end.

But with that it means pole fire season is here again.

Pole fires are a common cause of electrical outages in spring. They’re usually caused after winter when dust, dirt, and grime cover the insulators that connect power lines to the top of wood poles.

Moisture from wet snow, rain, or fog mixes with the debris on an insulator to create a conductive pathway for electricity to travel from the wires to the pole. Once electricity hits the pole, it starts a fire and can burn through the pole, leaving the cross-arms and insulators at the top of the pole suspended by the wires.

In most cases, a pole fire results in an outage.

A damaged pole is dangerous. If you see a leaning or snapped pole, stay away and report it online or call Manitoba Hydro at 204-480-5900 in Winnipeg or 1-888-624-9376 outside Winnipeg.

If any live power lines are on the ground, it should be reported immediately by calling 911.

Depending on the intensity of the pole fire and what part of it was damaged, our crews will likely need to replace the entire pole immediately. This is a lengthy repair that involves digging out the old pole and installing a new one and then reattaching power lines.

The risk of pole fires tends to lessen after the first heavy spring rains wash the dirt off the insulators.

Learn more about pole fires.