Power pole fire; residents, businesses out of power

LINCOLN – A power pole at 509 W. State St., Lincoln, caught fire at noon Thursday, leading to a power outage that affected 793 Consumer’s Energy residential and business customers for at least three hours, authorities said.

Although most of the system was restored by 1:57 p.m., Consumer’s Energy spokeswoman Debra Dodd said an equipment issue at 2:44 p.m. left 164 customers on Quick, McConnell and Miller roads without power.

According to an active online outage map at consumersenergy.com/outagemap, power outages also occurred at 18 spots in downtown Lincoln, and along Barlow Road, N. Somers Road and at the intersection of Hubbard Lake and Ritchie roads.

Phones also were out.

Dodd said crews were hoping to have electricity restored by 10:30 p.m.

The incident began around 12 p.m. when Neil Taratuta said he spotted a burning power pole near Viking Energy, where he works as plant manager. He immediately called authorities.

The plant was not a part of the power line system, and was not affected, he said. Instead, the pole appeared to supply electricity to homes, he said.

Although firefighters arrived quickly, the risk of electrocution kept them back.

“Basically there wasn’t much we could do, and the top of the pole toppled over and shorted out the lines,” Taratuta said.

Dodd said power line crews got to the site by 12:43 p.m. Then the second incident occurred. As of 5 p.m., crewmen were still trying to determine the cause of the fire and outages.

“We think it might involve a transformer, but we’re still looking to see what is going on,” Dodd said.

At Kris Mart, it was business as usual, Manager Brian Smith said. The combination grocery store and gas station installed a generator last year.

“In the past, we’d be shut down like the rest of the town,” he said.

Instead, the store was swamped.

“Lunch time was pretty busy around here because nobody had anywhere else to go,” Smith said.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.