Why are so many hydro poles catching fire?

Spring thaw has created the ‘perfect’ conditions that give rise to pole fires

Monday, March 16, 2015 - As temperatures begin to rise and snow melts in the spring, we face conditions that have the potential to cause pole fires. Road salt and other contaminants have built up on hydro poles and equipment attached to them over the course of the winter.  As temperatures rise during the spring thaw, the mix of moisture with the salt and contaminants gives rise to the perfect conditions for pole fires. Electricity is conducted from the power line along the insulator and onto the metal bolt that attaches to the hydro pole. The metal bolt heats to the extent that the pole will begin to char and potentially catch fire. Extensive damage can occur and could result in the pole coming down along with its wires.

Hydro poles most at risk are located in high-traffic areas where salty brine collects along the ground, up poles and onto equipment. Foggy, humid weather can cause similar conditions, as can rain or freezing rain. Utilities throughout the GTA have faced a higher than normal number of pole fires under these conditions, following a bitterly cold winter.

As part of its regular maintenance regime, Burlington Hydro undertakes high-pressure washing of poles and line hardware to wash away winter salt and contaminant build-up. The washing program began in early March and is being stepped up on the heels of outages that have been caused by a higher incidence of recent pole fires.