Not long ago, a brushfire occured in response to a downed power line pole. How did the wooden pole fall to the ground? Well, termites, of course. A few weeks ago, this blog described the chaos that erupted after a power line pole that had been damaged by termites fell to the ground in Parkerville, located near Perth in western Australia. When this story was released by media outlets at the time, many people probably assumed the incident to be an anomaly. However, termites damage power poles all the time, and in many different parts of the world. The recent Parkerville story actually serves as a cautionary tale concerning the widespread damage that can easily result from termite damage to wooden power line poles. Since the Parkerville incident occurred last January, another identical catastrophe occurred in a different part of Australia on St. Patrick’s Day, and Australians are not the only ones worried about this type of damage. In America, officials with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) consider damage to power line poles to be a more pressing concern than other fairly recent disasters that the commision has been blamed for, such as gas leaks, pipeline explosions and nuclear plant closings.
More than four million power poles exist within the state of California, and many of them have been standing since the 1940s. These poles have not been regularly inspected for termite infestations or the damages they cause. According to Michael Picker, president of the state Public Utilities Commission, many poles in the state are termite-ridden and overloaded with equipment. City officials in San Diego are particularly concerned about weakened power line poles, as several wildfires in the area have been caused by electrical fires to vegetation after power line poles fell to the ground. This is why the city is having several poles replaced with steel poles that cannot be weakened by termite activity. Hopefully, the rest of America will follow in San Diego’s footsteps in order to prevent termite-induced disasters similar to the ones that have already occurred in Australia.
Are you concerned with termite activity to power line poles in your area?