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Lightning strike sets power pole on fire, forces 45-minute outage

City of Powell lineman/electrician Rick Larson extinguishes a power pole late Wednesday night. City of Powell lineman/electrician Rick Larson extinguishes a power pole late Wednesday night. Tribune photo by CJ Baker

A lightning bolt from a Wednesday evening thunderstorm led to a power pole catching on fire later that night. More than 1,000 Powell households and businesses temporarily lost power around midnight while the pole was extinguished.

The Powell Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to the flaming pole on East Fourth Street, between Ingalls and Jones streets, at 11:36 p.m.

Armed with a fire extinguisher and water hose provided by the fire department, City of Powell lineman/electrician Rick Larson went up to the pole in a bucket truck and put out the fire. The entire south side of Powell and a few people on the north side of town lost power between 11:50 p.m. Wednesday and 12:35 a.m. Thursday while the pole was dealt with, said City of Powell Electrical Superintendent Larry Carter.

“It was just the safest for everyone involved,” Carter said of cutting power.

The fire apparently originated with a lightning strike hours earlier. Carter said a lightning arrester — which is supposed to send the energy to ground — shorted out to a mounting bracket bolted to the power pole. Ultimately, that caught the wooden pole on fire.

“Sometimes it doesn’t show up until later; it gets a little spark and then eventually it’s just like a forest fire — something causes it to grow,” Carter said.

He added that, while arresters are built to handle lightning, “sometimes ... man-made stuff can’t beat that; it’s just too fast for mechanical [equipment].”

Carter said a crew would be arriving Friday morning to replace the pole, which he said was about 50 percent burned on the top portion.

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