“Let it Burn!” Power Substation Fire

     When called into action for a fire we find ourselves rushing to extinguishment as quickly as possible. After all, we all know fires will just keep getting bigger if left unchecked right? Well, there are a few instances this is just a bad policy. One would be a compressed gas fire. If you don’t stop the flow, you will actually make this worse.

     Another one of these instances is an electrical fire. We all know water and electricity do not get along well. I saw a recent video of a department putting water on an electrical line running up a pole. Every time they spray the line it sounds like popcorn. Let’s get one thing straight. If what you are doing is not making things better, stop doing it! Well, they were using a fog fire stream and that is what the book calls for. Remember that is only to be used when a life is in danger, and you have no other way to stop the fire. The best choice would be to shut off the electricity asap. If this is not possible then use a class C rated fire extinguisher.

     The next part of this month’s drill topic is in the title. Utilities have “substations.” These are areas protected by fences where electricity is converted and routed to serve the electrical grid in your area. They contain many hazards. That is why they have tall fences with barbed wire and signs that say how dangerous they are! You should never enter one without being accompanied by qualified representatives of the facility owner. Get this straight, if you are not told by a trained company employee that it is safe to enter, Let It Burn! In most cases, whatever is burning is no longer serviceable and will need to be replaced.

     Be certain not to position yourself under any of the wires running in or out of the station. Many of the items in these stations are filled with oil and may be capable of a BLEVE. Consider the possibility of a release of oil from an item inside of the station. Be prepared to contain any runoff and prevent it from reaching any waterway.

     Power substations are clearly labeled as to the ownership and will have a number to call in an emergency. Give the number a call and ask if they would be willing to talk to your department.

Training Objectives

     Upon completion, the department should be able to….

     • Identify possible hazards of electrical substation fires.

     • Preplan the substations in your area.

     • Discuss the hazards of electrical shock.

     Scott Meinecke is a member of the Sheldon and Granger Volunteer Fire Departments, Director of Safety for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, and field staff for the Fire Service Training Bureau. He can be contacted by email at smeinecke@iowarec.org





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Jeff Gargano - Editor
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