Across our service territory, many of our members are getting ready to plant. In clearing weeds and debris to begin the planting process, burning fields and ditches is one of the most frequent methods used by many people. Big Horn’s line crews witness the damage done to Big Horn’s poles and equipment by “controlled” burns every spring and fall. Please be aware that burning or even scorching a power pole can compromise its integrity.

The power poles are treated with a protective coating that prevents moisture from entering the core of the power pole and causing deterioration. If a power pole is scorched, the protective layer that the power poles are treated with is damaged. Though it may appear as just a discoloration or slight burn, this is, in fact, damage to the power pole. It will shorten the life of a power pole. This pole may then become a hazard and may cause an outage.

Big Horn once again wants to remind its members to plan their burning before they begin. It is much cheaper to prevent a pole from catching fire than to pay for a new power pole. Members will be held liable for the replacement cost of said power pole(s) and equipment due to fire damage. This cost may vary from $1,000 to over $2,000, depending on the structure of the power pole and the equipment. It only takes little to no extra effort to prevent pole damage and helps us control costs for you and your cooperative.

The burning of ditches and fields does not have to result in the burning or scorching of power poles. If there are power poles in the area that you will be burning, clear the vegetation/weeds at least four feet around the base of the power pole and get the base of the power pole wet with water before beginning to burn. If the fire does get away from you and a power pole becomes engulfed in flames, immediately call the fire department and Big Horn REA. Do not spray water close to the conductors! Water and electricity do not mix! This may cause a short circuit. You or the firefighters could be in the path of that current, and severe injury or death may result.

Report any fire-damaged pole to Big Horn REA immediately. Not reporting the damage may cause a severe accident to happen later. One spring, a member driving down the road called us to let us know about a pole that had been burned through and fallen over, leaving the energized lines about a foot off the ground. Had a person come into contact with the line, they most likely would have been severely burned or even killed. The person responsible for the burning was not in the area. This carelessness could have cost a life.