Outage sparked by accidental road work fire

May 14, 2013 

— A fire that took out power lines and blew a transformer in Boise Tuesday morning started when Ada County Highway District workers used thermal torches to perform road maintenance, according to spokesman Craig Quintana.

The outage affected about 200 customers, according to Idaho Power.

Quintana said a worker was using the torch to seal and clean debris from cracks in the road on Barr Street. A spark from a worker’s thermal torch caught nearby arborvitae bushes on fire.

The fire spread to other bushes, then a nearby fence. As the flames climbed, they took out the power lines as well, Quintana said.

The downed power lines cause the transformer at 36th and Taft to blow, with a booming sound that prompted a spate of 911 calls from concerned area residents.

Three vehicles that had been backed up to the fence also caught fire.

“They were heavily damaged, if not totaled, “ Quintana said.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze before it spread further, but power was out in the area for several hours.

Idaho Power had restored all the affected areas by 1 p.m. Tuesday.

ACHD will be conducting an investigation into the incident. Quintana said the district wants to determine if the fire was just “bad luck” or a result of negligence on the part of the worker.

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