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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Downed power lines: Don't become part of the problem

While fire departments vary in their readiness to handle electrical emergencies, it's always important to be vigilant (and patient) on these incidents

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: With the recent story of live wires striking a Massachussettes fire truck with a firefighter still inside, FR1 Editorial Advisor Chief Adam K. Thiel gives his expert take on just how dangerous these incidents can be. 

I suppose there are a couple ways to view this story; I'm taking it as a "good news" item because the involved firefighters were not injured.

Despite the time it took for the electric utility to arrive and de-energize the fallen power lines, the fire department crew was patient (although surely frustrated) and didn't try to do anything that might have put them in (further) danger.

I've been in this business just long enough to remember when we "pulled" meters and learned to use ropes and hooks to remove downed wires.

I've also been on the job long enough to see utility workers injured or killed doing things they were extensively trained and properly equipped to perform.

While fire departments vary in their readiness to handle electrical emergencies, it's always important to be vigilant (and patient) on these incidents; doing a complete size-up and ongoing risk-benefit analysis will help keep you, and your crew members, from becoming part of the problem.

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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