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Dealing with Electrical Safety on Scene

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  • Dealing with Electrical Safety on Scene

    Hello everyone I have read the forums for a while and I am a new member. Had a question about a call we ran the other night and I thought I would bring it to the guys here with more experience than I have. I work with a volunteer department in rural Arkansas, and we had a structure fire around 3am a few nights back, about 10 miles from our firehouse. Our department and the neighboring department are on automatic mutal-aid for structure fires in either of our districts, so we were both called out.

    Once on scene we could see the structure was fully involved, decision was made to setup defensive operations. There were two trailers right across a small driveway from the house, both were already smoking/showing damaged siding so we moved to protect them.

    While trying to protect those mobile homes, the electrical line that fed into the house burnt through at the top mountings and fell into the yard between us and the fire. We had already noted the danger and kept operations away from that area.

    After they fell we continued to try to keep the fire contained on that side of the house and off the trailers, while avoiding the downed live electrical wires. Here is where my questions come in. I have read a bit about the dangers of higher voltage lines arching through the ground and giving them a wide berth, but what does your departments or SOP consider safe range for the lines going into houses. We have almost no training on this issue and I am planning to bring it up at an after-action meeting. I personally believe we had men and hoselines too close to the downed power lines. Does anyone know at what distance downed lines like that are dangerous. Or what distance a hoseline will carry electricity from a line of that type if the hoseline itself comes into contact with the lines or gets too close to them?

    Any help you guys have on this subject would be appreciated. Living in a very rural area it can take hours for a power truck to arrive on scene so we generally have to attack the fire with power still going to the structure. I have been trying to learn as much as I can about these situations as I feel we are taking unnecessary risks when the power is involved. If anyone could tell me about your SOP's, personal experience, or point me towards reliable sources of information that would be amazing.

    I have tried looking online but most of the answers I get are just standard "Avoid power lines" with no indication of my specific questions about the range of their danger, the ability of fire hoses to carry electricty, etc.

  • #2
    Have no answer for you most utility companies will come by and give classes


    • #4
      Distance will most likely be dictated to a large extent by the specific circumstances of the incident. How much voltage? What do you need to do and where do you have to go to do it? Protecting life or just property?
      No matter how you slice it, electricity is unpredictable and can arc across conductors. Stay as far away as is operationally possible. If you think the ground may be charged you're supposed to hop through the area so both feet are in same voltage gradient (it decreases with distance). I have never tested that thoery, nor do I want to.
      Spray pattern is safer than straight stream for hoselines. Another theory I don't really want to test. Hose streams are definitely conductors. The main thing is to keep water and metal tools as far away as possible from energized equipment. And minimize committment of members.
      Last edited by captnjak; 10-02-2013, 07:31 PM.


      • #5
        Thanks for the replies everyone, I was reading over those manuals that were linked. My big concern was just how well electricity would be conducted by the hoseline itself or through the ground to it. We were in a really cramped area and we had 3 engines and a tanker all in a line with a lot of hoses near the downed power lines. I have been unable to find anything that says how well our modern hoseline conducts electricity or what a safe distance is for hoses near downed lines. But the advice so far is very helpful!


        • #6
          Definitely get in contact with your local electrical utility, most of them are very willing to give training. And if you can get some of the neighboring dept's to attend, it will be well worth it.
          I've seen half a city block energized because of chainlink fencing that was charged. And heavy rains can increase the safe zone needed as well. You should also have a AC detector as part of your equipment as well.


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