Fire snaps power pole, causes smoke, water damage at neighboring home

Posted by Cory Smith • Last Updated 11:25 am on Friday, February 15 2013

Live power lines dangled over a propane tank and large barn at Double R Ranch in Otisco Township Thursday evening after a fire caused a power pole to snap. — Daily News/Cory Smith


OTISCO TOWNSHIP — A fire that burned through a power line pole, snapping the top of the pole and leaving live wires hanging over a propane tank and several buildings at Double R Ranch, caused a small fire at a home on Whites Bridge Road Thursday evening, leaving smoke and water damage throughout the home.

The Belding Fire Department was dispatched to a pole fire on Whites Bridge Road, across from the Double R Ranch at 4424 Whites Bridge Road at 6:45 p.m.

The top of a power pole on the property of Double R Ranch in Otisco Township snapped Thursday evening after a fire burned through the wooden pole. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Once on scene, Belding Fire Captain Don Eady immediately asked for Ionia County Central Dispatch to contact an emergency crew from Consumers Energy to arrive on scene.

Ionia County Central Dispatch made the call to consumers energy at 6:55 p.m.

Firefighters stayed at the scene to monitor the fire, until the top of the pole snapped, causing a power surge. Almost immediately, firefighters noticed smoke coming from a residence across the road at 4423 Whites Bridge Road.

An all-call for the Belding Fire Department was dispatched at 7:54 p.m. after the smoke was spotted at the two-story wood-frame farm house across from Double R Ranch.

According to Belding Fire Chief Gregg Moore, no flames were spotted in the home, but the power surge was the cause of smoke that began billowing from the home.

“When the pole burnt through and the top dropped, the wires twisted which then crossed all of the wires and sent current where it shouldn’t have gone,” he said. “Right in this house, there were two young girls who were home. They immediately had smoke in the house and they came running out and let Don know.”

The owners of the home, Steve and Holly Reeves, the son and daughter-in-law of Richard Reeves, the owner of Double R Ranch, were not home at the time of the incident. Steve Reeves told The Daily News that their two teenage daughters saw sparks from the stove and receptacles inside the house and immediately exited the home and drove to their grandparents’ home down the street. They were unharmed.

The Belding Fire Department noticed smoke coming from this residence at 4423 Whites Bridge road in Otisco Township after a power pole that caught fire snapped, causing a power surge. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Chief Moore said the department initially believed it could have been an issue with the water pipes, due to the power surge, and firefighters made their way to the basement of the home.

“There was heavy smoke, initially,” he said. “The first thing we did was shut off the breakers in the basement, which then the smoke started to dissipate.”

Moore said the result of the power surge sent water pouring into the basement of the home.

“The power surge took the path of least resistance,” he said. “It went to the water pipe. Anywhere there were close water pipes, it burnt holes through the water pipes in the basement.”

Moore said they were able to stop the source of the smoke after they disconnected power to the home.

“The water was leaking all through the basement, but by shutting the electricity off, it stopped the burning,” he said. “Right now, we are dealing with lots of water leaking into the basement.”

Moore said the large amount of water was due to the 400-gallon storage tank across the road which fed water to the home.

Moore said his department was able to locate the shut-off valve, which had no handle, but by using wrenches they were able to shut off the water, stopping the flow of water to the home.

“Water is still flowing down into the basement, we’ve got guys down with buckets grabbing as much water as they can grab,” Moore said at the scene.

Moore attributed prevention of further damage to the home to the quick response of his department.

“We were quick enough to get the power turned off before a fire could start,” he said.

Firefighters walk from their trucks toward the scene of a pole fire Thursday evening on Whites Bridge Road in Otisco Township. — Daily News/Cory Smith

No water was used on scene.

Moore said he believes the home will only sustain minor smoke and water damage.

No one was injured on scene.

Moore did have thoughts as to why the fire started on the power line pole.

“What probably happened, and we’ve seen it before, where they bolt things through on a pole, if moisture collects around those and the ground isn’t just quite right, it starts to burn — and that’s exactly what happened over there.”

An emergency crew from Consumers Energy arrived shortly before 9 p.m., almost two hours after the first call to Consumers Energy was dispatched. The delay in response could have been because Consumers Energy was either busy or possibly only had one truck available on call, Moore said.

“They haven’t told us, but their bucket truck was coming from way up on M-46,” he said. “I’m sure they only had one person on call, but they are going to need a pole crew for a new pole and a line crew to restring it. They are going to busy, and it’s doubtful they will get to it tonight.”

When reached for comment, Consumers Energy Spokesman Dan Bishop said the incident is “still under investigation.”

Consumers Energy Spokeman Roger Morgen said 475 people were without power in the Belding and Smyrna area from 7:50 p.m. until power was restored at 10:02 p.m.

“We don’t have details at this time about our response,” he said.

Moore did say the area was safe after power had been disconnected to the pole.

When asked if Consumers had arrived on scene in a more timely manner, Moore said it could have made a significant difference.

A Belding firefighter investigates the cause of smoke coming from a home at 4423 Whites Bridge Road Thursday evening in Otisco Township. — Daily News/Cory Smith

“It was after a half hour that the pole burnt through all the way,” he said. “What they do when they can get here in time, and again, we don’t know what their schedule was, they would go up with their bucket truck and a dry chemical fire extinguisher, spray it on there and put the fire out. The pole would have been weakened, but at least it wouldn’t have broke.”

According to Moore, had the pole never snapped, the power surge that burned the pipes in the neighboring home would never have happened.

Moore said his department could not touch the pole with water or place one of their own buckets from their ladder trucks near the pole.

“We wouldn’t attempt to put a metal ladder anywhere near high tension power lines,” he said. “Their fiberglass bucket is the only thing that can go near that pole.”

The Belding Fire Department left the scene at 9:30 p.m.

According to Consumers Energy, power has been restored to the area as of Thursday evening.

Grattan Township Fire Department assisted on scene.

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