SAFD, CPS Energy say drought, dust, moisture caused nearly 30 electrical poles to catch fire

San Antonio firefighters were extremely busy on Monday morning, dealing with weather-related electrical fires.

Nearly 30 electrical fires were reported between 4:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. on the San Antonio Fire Department’s website and all of them were the tops of electrical poles catching fire — some causing downed power lines or transformers blowing.

As a result, CPS Energy saw as many as 14,000 customers without power at some point on Monday.

“We’ve been in a little bit of a dry spell, then we had the wind come in and the dust accumulated over several months and then you get that little bit of moisture; you see a lot of arching wires and as a result, you get a lot of these electrical poles that catch fire,” Lt. Edward Olmo, SAFD explained.

Olmo said that the cause was the right combination of drought, light rain, wind, dust and old poles.

“The older the poles, the more brittle, the easier they can catch fire,” Olmo said. “Sometimes it will affect the transformer. You’ll hear and see that big loud boom and a bright flash of light.”

Olmo said that if you see one of the poles broken and/or on fire, don’t go near it and immediately call 911, especially if there are downed lines.

“Let us come out and check it out first,” Olmo said. “Let’s be safe, please stay back. Those power lines could fall at any time. If that happens, just give us a call. We’ll come right out we promise, it’s been a little busy this morning, but we’ll make it out there.”

CPS Energy sent KSAT 12 a statement on the power outages around 11 a.m.

“We have our crews out working quickly and safely to restore outages. We have cut them almost in half in just the past hour and we will continue restoration efforts until all of our customers are restored.”

After a long period of dry weather, light rain/humidity mixed with dirt/dust buildup on insulators can cause electricity to ‘track’ over. This can lead to a pole fire, which our crews have seen as shown below.

📸: Bandera Rd. near 410/Boerne Stage Rd. & Sage Creek


— CPS Energy (@cpsenergy) March 21, 2022

CPS Energy also sent a link to a video that explains the cause of the electrical pole fires. It can be seen by clicking here.