Friday, January 20, 2006

Fire on the Pole

Where you come from, do the telephone poles ever catch fire? Here in the Keys they do. Here's how it happens. A combination of wind and sea spray deposits a layer of salt on the wires that carry our electricity. In dry weather that leads to a sizzling sound as the current in the lines slowly burns away the salt. But give a light rain to dampen the salt deposits and the current makes the wires heat up, including as it crosses the wooden poles, sometimes igniting the wood. The fire burns up to the top of the pole, making it look like a giant birthday candle.

It takes a heavy rain to wash the salt from everything. The fire risk then goes down until the next time we get a wind/spray event.

This week, there were two dozen such fires in Key West, some of which tripped circuit breakers and put electricity out. I watched one the poles on Truman Avenue burning last week. A fire truck arrived and extinguished the flames by spraying water from the street to the top of the pole.

Read more here.

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