Photo by John Vandelinder
Craig Fire/Rescue members hose down the singed grass between Tri-State Equipment and the Black Nugget Motel. An unmarked electrical line caused the brush fire - as well as numerous power outages - at 2 p.m. Sunday.
While using a backhoe to dig a conduit line for fiber optic cables, Steven Tomlin, of D & D Construction, hit an unmarked electrical line. The unleashed current caused an explosion, which resulted in a fire in the surrounding grasses.
The fire occurred about 2 p.m. Sunday on the north side of West Victory Way, between Tri-State Equipment and the Black Nugget Motel. Craig Fire/Rescue and Emergency Medical Services responded to the accident, tending to the blaze and Tomlin.
Tomlin was uninjured by the electrical surge, a fact he credited to the rubber traction of the equipment he was using.
"I wasn't exactly shocked, but I could feel the power," Tomlin said.
Tomlin's family was at the site, as well. His sister, Chris, was in the middle of a day off from the construction company.
"If I'd been standing on the ground next to him, I'd probably be dead," she said.
Besides the fire, the rupture of the electrical line also caused power outages around Craig, including many traffic lights and the southwest section of town that was affected by a similar power outage that happened July 4.
Yampa Valley Electric Association workers took action quickly, restoring the power to the Wal-Mart area by 3:10 p.m. and Pine Ridge by 3:30 p.m.
"It was the same kind of problem we had last week," Jeff Hergenreter, YVEA line supervisor, said. "Last week, it was a fault that caused it, and this time it was a dig-in, but it was another feeder that got hit, so that's why there were outages."
Hergenreter was unable to specify why the electrical line was not marked with the necessary flag to warn construction companies of such dangers.
"We're not sure who's at fault, but we will check in on it," he said. "In this business, you're only as good as your locaters, but you can never predict exactly what might happen."
Locaters are the crewmembers responsible for flagging electrical lines.
"We want to be careful in the future, but right now, we're glad nobody was hurt," Hergenreter said.
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 875-1796 or firstname.lastname@example.org