Tactical Fire Problem – Electrical Substation Fire

A fire at an electrical substation this week, which in some ways might be an easy one!


1.) Why is this an easy one? Simple, we do not belong beyond the fenced area until deemed safe multiple times by the power company. That was no mistake, I did say confirmed multiple times. The modern power grid will attempt to re-route power automatically in some cases when a fault is detected. What is de-energized now may not be in a minute. Get multiple confirmations from multiple levels and sources. Treat it almost like Haz mat identification of a chemical, multiple sources of information are needed.

2.) Consider the fact that extremely high voltage lines can drop and fall. Establish a safety zone for personnel and apparatus.

3.) Learn and pre plan these facilities in your area. Learn about arcing and safe distances. How close do you really have to be to a 60-70 thousand volt transmission line before there is a problem? Does thick black smoke have enough carbon in it to conduct electricity? (SPOILER….ANSWER IS YES!)

4.) As the fire department, what affect will this substation fire have on your community? Did you just lose all of the traffic signals, resulting in accidents, did the power go off to the nursing home, hospital, or supermarket refrigerators? Will home owners begin using candles, stoves inside for heat (carbon monoxide emergencies) will improperly wired generators begin to back feed the electrical distribution system?

The problem of the fire at this substation might actually be the least of your worries.

5.) When do you cut the lock on the gate to go inside and rescue the downed electrical worker in this scenario?

Please go and check out the substation in your communities. Call the power company and they will usually be more than happy to come out and train your folks.

Stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013