January 16, 2013

Power Lines and Pine Trees

Utility workers contemplate an electrical line entangled with pine trees.
In the photo, two employees of the rural electrical cooperative contemplate a tree-trimmig problem near my house. The long yellow line is a sectional pruning saw that extends to about 40 feet  — at that length, ithe floppiness make it difficult to place the cutting edge where you want it.

I have been complaining about this problem for years, literally. Looking up and seeing scorched (from contact with the wires)  pine boughs does not make me happy.

Every so often, some technician would be here for some other purpose (replacing the meter, say), and I would point out the boughs contacting the lines, to which he would say, "Yeah, you've got a problem." And that was it.

(The trees were trimmed by a contractor — who kind of butchered them — in the mid-1990s, but oddly enough, they grew back.)

Some months ago, I wrote a letter to the general manager. That brought some workers out in the spring, but they felt that the ground was too soft to try to get close with their "cherry-picker"  bucket truck, and promised to come back when it was harder.

Now it's frozen. No problem.

Meanwhile, the co-op had been replacing a power line that comes into this area with a bigger one. That brought another technician last week, who said that the transformers on each home had to be replaced. On Monday three trucks arrived, and the guys replaced the transformer at the guest cabin and then came over to our house.

And, lo, they trimmed. What they could not reach from the truck, they did with the long noodle of a pruning saw.

In his new year's annual message, the general manager spoke of increased attention being paid to tree-trimming.

I just wonder if that had something to do with the fact that my department fought two fires started by electrical lines in 2012, including the October 23rd fire that took out fifteen homes. (Apparently, that fire had two ignition points, one a burning transformer and one wires touching tree branches — the two fires merged, part of the reason so much burned so fast.)

Four days into that fire, I was chatting with the final incident commander, the local guy who was put in charge after the Type 2 command team pulled out. He had been a volunteer in the next county south — similar terrain  — and he was full of stories about electrical lines starting fires in the pines.

Or maybe it was just my letter that got results.

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