The lights went out in Cedaredge and areas surrounding the town on Thursday, Feb. 18, from a power outage that lasted almost four hours -- from 7:36 to 11:10 p.m. according to a spokesperson with DMEA.
Police, fire, and ambulance crews responded to the site on West Main Street at about 12th Avenue where they found a fire burning atop a DMEA power pole.
The fire, burning briskly and stoked by a cold west windstorm, showered sparks along the roadway. It was quickly extinguished by fire fighters, but the power outage continued.
Most of the town was without power for the duration of the event. There were some lights operating along Highway 65 at the town's southern limits. House lights and outdoor decorative lighting along Stonebridge Drive and Deer Creek Drive were also not affected. Lights remained shining along the rim of Cedar Mesa, and the high school's lighted "C" along Cedar Mesa Road remained lit.
From atop the cemetery hill, lights were observed to the north of town, but service at least as far as Sage Road and possibly farther north was also apparently cut. The lights also went out west of town at least as far as Ward Creek.
Businesses that remained open until the outage occurred closed and went home early for the night. Only a very few motorists made their ways along the town's pitch-dark streets, though there was nowhere to go to.
The Cedaredge outage came as the town board was just getting into the agenda of its regular monthly meeting. Undeterred, trustees and staff carried on with their meeting in a room lit mainly by the glow of laptop computer screens running on reserve battery power.
Some several thousands of people were affected by the outage. DMEA reported that "approximately 1,428 DMEA members (i.e. electric meters) in and around Cedaredge experienced the power outage due to a pole fire on Main Street," according to a DMEA spokesperson. "The outage began at 7:36 p.m. Our crews were able to isolate the issue and gradually restore power throughout the night. Full power was restored at approximately 11:10 p.m."
At the scene of the pole fire, the top cross member of a power pole hung at an odd angle as the fire shot flames upward into the dark sky and undermined the cross member support. Firefighters cautioned that live power lines might come crashing to the ground, but, as events played out, that did not occur.
The fire burned just above the pole-mounted transformer. DMEA officials said that the transformer was not the cause of the fire and that it was not involved in the incident.
The fire occurred just as a fierce windstorm blew through the valley. It appeared at the scene that some tree branches had fallen onto the power lines.
According to the DMEA spokesperson, "The fire was a result of the wind breaking a cut out (protective switch) on a pole. This caused sparking and, ultimately, damage to the pole."
DMEA line crews were busy with another outage in Montrose County the same night as the Cedaredge outage occurred. The utility reported the day following the event that "approximately 883 Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) members in southern Montrose and the rural areas southwest of town experienced an outage beginning at 3:55 p.m. Severe winds damaged a power pole serving south Montrose and an additional piece of equipment on a power line serving the rural areas. DMEA's crews were able to safely restore power to a majority of the members. Approximately 100 members remain without power."
The electric co-op advises its members "to report all outages and downed lines by calling 1-877-687-3632. Members are urged to report all outages and not rely on others to call in. Email and social media are not reliable for reporting outages, as they are not continuously monitored. Members are also reminded to stay away from all downed power lines and assume they are still live. Never attempt to move a downed line or anything coming into contact with it."