Pole fires

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Spring pole fires

Humidity may combine with dirt on the insulators to create a pathway for electricity to travel from the line to the pole.

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  • A winter’s worth of salt and grime – usually from traffic – can build up on porcelain or polymer insulators which attach power lines to wood distribution poles.
  • In the spring, during high humidity weather conditions (dense fog or very light snow or rain), the dirt combines with moisture on the insulators and can create a pathway for electricity to travel from the power line to the wood pole. This short circuit causes a fire.
  • The fire can burn through the pole and leave the cross-arms and insulators suspended by the wires. The outcome is almost always a power outage.
  • A damaged pole can be very dangerous. If you see one, stay away from the area and call 911 and Manitoba Hydro.

Pole fires are a common cause of electrical outages in Manitoba.

Insulators are used to attach electric power lines to wood distribution poles.

  • Cracks or lightning damage may cause an insulator to fail and cause a pole fire.
  • Dirt and grime can build up on the insulators. Moisture in the air from humid weather, dense fog, light rain, or light, wet snow combines with the dirt to allow an electrical short circuit, which can cause a fire.

The short circuit trips a switch, cutting power to the lines, much like the fuses or breakers in a house.

  • Power may be restored quickly if we can re-route power from another location. Or there may be no other routing options and affected customer must wait while we make repairs.
  • Sometimes power is restored to customers for a short time and then it goes out again; the second outage may be due to our equipment repairs/replacement.

Poles damaged by fire usually need to be replaced.

  • Sometimes the pole may burn through, leaving the top of the pole, cross-arms and insulators suspended by the power lines. Or power lines can break from the weight.
  • The location of the pole determines the difficulty and length of time required to replace it. The entire process usually takes many hours to complete.
  • Before installing a new pole, we need to obtain underground clearances (electrical, gas, cable TV, communication).
Photo of a damaged wood pole.

Wood pole badly damaged by fire.
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After the new pole is placed (or existing pole repaired, when possible), we replace any damaged equipment and wire. Then we attach the equipment to the pole and restore electrical service to the affected customers.

Poles damaged by fire usually need to be replaced.

  • Sometimes the pole may burn through, leaving the top of the pole, cross-arms and insulators suspended by the power lines. Or power lines can break from the weight.
  • The location of the pole determines the difficulty and length of time required to replace it. The entire process usually takes many hours to complete.
  • Before installing a new pole, we need to obtain underground clearances (electrical, gas, cable TV, communication).
  • After the new pole is placed (or existing pole repaired, when possible), we replace any damaged equipment and wire. Then we attach the equipment to the pole and restore electrical service to the affected customers.

If you see a damaged pole

  • Call us at 204-480-5900 in Winnipeg or 1-888-624-9376 outside Winnipeg if you notice leaning or snapped poles or to report any downed lines immediately.