Looked much worse than it was: Utility pole blazes in the middle of the night with minimal damage, except to landscaping in backyards in the 700 block of North Douglas.
Arlington Heights police and firefighters responded just before 11:00 p.m. Wednesday to a fully-involved utility pole fire in the backyard of a residence in the 700 block of North Douglas Avenue.
There was some arcing initially, but the biggest danger was a fully-involved fire up almost the entire length of the utility pole. The only exposure in danger was a tall pine tree in the backyard next to the burning pole.
Firefighters were concerned about downed lines, which could not be confirmed because of the intensity of the fire. A wrought iron fence in one of the yards was a concern because it could have been electrified if a downed power line was in contact with the conductive fence. Neighbors were warned to stay away from the fence and the backyards. Bystanders were also warned to stay away from underneath power lines, even though they appeared to be in normal position, because the risk of lines snapping was greater during the incident. The lines that run through the backyards and across streets and sidewalks from block to block were at greater risk of falling during the incident. If one of the lines was energized and fell on a bystander, electrocution would be possible.
Firefighters waited for ComEd to arrive to shut down the power before they put water on the utility pole and surrounding area. Com Ed arrived in about 30 minutes. The pole had almost burned out, but firefighters soaked the area with hope that there would be no re-kindle overnight. Firefighters used about 500 gallons of water from their onboard water tank, and refilled from a hydrant before they left the scene.
No injuries reported. One resident was upset with firefighters for “just standing by” and not putting the fire out. Firefighters explained that they can’t put water on a live power line because of life safety risk to the firefighters. In these situations they keep a careful eye on exposures, and would extinguish the fire on the exposures if there were no risk that the exposures were an electrical hazard.