While controlled burns are an important tool in Western Colorado for managing and restoring natural areas, Delta-Montrose Electric Association is asking members to take extra precaution when burning near power poles or other parts of the power system.
"Burning near our power poles and equipment creates an obvious hazard. If left unchecked, fire can severely damage our power poles, create outages, serious safety hazards, and result in costly repairs," said DMEA operations manager Troy Hall.
DMEA urges members to take special note of power poles and lines before starting a burn. Burning a power pole could result in widespread power outages and cost up to $5,000 for the individual responsible for the fire. Before beginning a controlled burn, cut all grass and weeds near power poles to reduce fire hazards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also advises the removal of all dead trees within 20 feet of the planned burn. Water the area near the poles, but be careful to keep water streams out of power lines.
Poles that have sustained any amount of damage must be replaced. If a power pole catches on fire, call 911 and alert DMEA at 1-877-687-3632 immediately to address the possible electrical dangers. A pole that catches on fire could create shock or electrocution hazards to those who may be nearby or spark fires in unintended directions from downed lines. Even if you think you have been able to put out the fire yourself, alert DMEA to the fact that it caught fire. The creosote, a power pole preservative, could still be burning the pole from the inside out.
"Simply taking the time to be aware of conditions can prevent costly and dangerous mistakes. Check and continuously monitor the weather the day of your burn. Be prepared with a plan to put out your burn. And most importantly, don't be afraid to call for help," said Lindsay Wiley, public information officer with the Montrose Fire Protection District. Wiley also recommends the following:
• Conduct the burn as early as possible and try to finish before noon.
• Check the weather -- if moderate or high winds are predicted postpone the burn.
• Never leave your burn unattended.
• Call 911 immediately if you lose control of your burn.
In Delta County, citizens must call dispatch at 399-2955 prior to conducting any agricultural or ditch burn.
Information about open burning and permitting in Colorado can be found online at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/openburn.