In Illinois, the Fairview-Caseyville Township Fire Protection District warned the public about a phenomenon that could have caused a lot of damage to the people of the township. A local firefighter discovered a “dangerous work of art” that showed the potential power of this dangerous event. Firefighters were responding to reports of downed power lines in the nearby woods. The firefighters observed signs of arcing, which happens when electricity from the power line leaps over gaps between conductors.
The firefighters warned the power company, Ameren Illinois, of a possible forest fire. Ameren Illinois then proceeded to turn off the power to the affected power lines. When the firefighters returned to the scene, they verified that the area was made safe from a forest fire. But when a deputy chief returned at another time, the deputy chief noticed a “dangerous work of art.” What happened was that when the power lines fell onto the ground, the electricity running through the lines began to instead run into the earth. The area was covered in sand. The power from the lines generated enough heat to turn the surrounding sand into glass. The immense heat that this reaction requires would have been deadly to any bystanders in the area.
The Fairview Caseyville Township Fire Protection District issued a Facebook post to warn the public. The Facebook post stated that the Fairview Fire Department responded to the reports of a downed power line near East O’Fallon Road. The Deputy Chief saw the downed power lines, observed the arcing, and notified Ameren Illinois. After confirming that the area was safe, the Deputy Chief in Training, Justin Loepker, returned to the area to look around. The Facebook post included a picture of a large chunk of jagged glass that was large, solid, and beautiful. The fire department warned that the glass was proof that the public should always strive to avoid downed power lines. The fact that the sand in the area near the power lines was turned into glass was an indication of the enormous amount of voltage and heat that was produced by the power line. The fire department reiterated that the public should avoid power lines even if they believe them to be dead. The public responded to the fire department’s Facebook post with shock and gratitude. One commenter noted that the chunk of glass would be a great tool to exhibit to children. It could be used as part of a presentation to demonstrate the danger of downed power lines.
Another commenter noted a past experience with a downed power line that was sobering in retrospect. The commenter had removed a tree in their path while driving at night. They only realized afterward that there could have been a downed power line tangled in the tree. Luckily, there was not. However, it is a good reminder to check carefully for downed power lines before approaching unknown situations.