Stay away: Downed power line fire prompts safety warning from SP Fire Department

January 04, 2013
Santa Paula News

A recent fire has prompted a warning from the Santa Paula Fire Department: if you see something suspicious like flashes on your property, do not approach it. If you do, you just might wind up dead.

Captain Jerry Byrum said when electrical power lines fell onto two houses at about 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, those living in one residence “noticed the flashes in their backyard and actually went into their backyard to see what was going on.” What was going on, said Byrum, was a live power line had come down in the high winds... and if anyone had come into contact with the line or anything energized by it they would have been electrocuted. 

“That’s a big no-no... we know people are curious and want to see what’s going on. Based on what we were told,” Byrum said the residents exited their home through the sliding glass door into the backyard, “where the wire was down above them... they were luck it didn’t try to reset,” which could have energized metals that came into contact with the line or even caused the wire to whip around.

Byrum said firefighters spoke to the residents, urging them, “Next time, just call it in and let the experts come in and see what’s going on.” All should be “very cautious” around electricity: “It’s one of those things even as a firefighter is very scary, even to a professional, because it does its own thing.”

Byrum said his father had worked for Southern California Edison and said, “Electricity is a wonderful thing when contained, but when let loose it is very, very violent and unpredictable. And you never know when a line will drop,” even without the Santa Ana winds blamed for downing the power lines on Mariposa Drive.

“A common problem we deal with is that the insulation on the power line gets worn from rubbing against something, then it arcs out or energizes something, then the line comes down.”

Southern California Edison also ramped up their safety campaign, warning people against touching or getting too close to downed power lines following a tragic incident that left three people in one household dead when they were electrocuted. “Call 911,” if you see flashes or anything at all suspicious, said Byrum, as “That’s why we’re here.”

According to Edison, customer safety is a top priority, and the company offered some safety tips: 

If you see a downed or dangling wire - even if it appears not to be live - don’t touch or approach it and call 911 immediately.

Keep in mind during power outages to watch for traffic signals that may be out. Approach those intersections as four-way stops, as the law requires.

Make sure you have a battery-operated radio and flashlights. Check the batteries to make sure they are fresh. Use flashlights for lighting during a power outage; do not use candles because they may pose a significant fire hazard.

Do not use any equipment inside that is designed for outdoor heating or outdoor cooking. Such equipment can emit carbon monoxide and other toxic gases and can be fatal.

If you use a generator, place it outdoors and plug individual appliances directly into the generator using a heavy-duty extension cord. Connecting generators directly to household circuits creates “backfeed,” which is dangerous to repair crews.

Report any trees or structures that look unstable to city authorities. If it looks like a collapse could be imminent, call 911.

Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep your food as fresh as possible. Place blocks of ice inside to help keep food cold. Check food carefully for signs of spoilage. 

Check on your neighbors to make sure everyone is safe.

A video and fact sheet about power line safety is available at The information is available in Spanish at

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