Brush fire threatens power line

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MEEKER I Potential calamity was averted when John Wix successfully extinguished a fire Friday evening that had ignited a utility pole, threatening the power lines overhead.

Wix was burning grass and cattails in the ditch along east Market Street when the flammable creosote used in power poles caught fire. Coal tar creosote, the most common type used in the United States, is a gummy and extremely combustible substance, produced when coal is heated to produce coke, a cleaner burning form of coal. It is used to preserve not only utility poles, but also railroad ties, lumber and other materials.
Just to show how such things can quickly get out of hand, Wix recounted, “I was watching it but it just (happened). I try to pre-burn around those kinds of things because they are so volatile.”
He had already pre-burned around a telephone box, but the other situation just got away from him, a common situation this time of year.
Wix’s neighbor, Deby Merriam, was also on the scene lending a hand and observed, “Those poles are pretty new, only about a year-and-a-half old, and there was still a lot of creosote (on the outside).”
The same thing happened to Merriam just two years ago, she said, adding that she learned from her experience. With a little chuckle she said, “I raked the grass away from my pole. I’m not doing this again.”
The Meeker Fire Department responded quickly, although, fortunately, Wix had already extinguished the fire, which had climbed about halfway up the pole to within five feet of the power lines.
Merriam also said Wix “Used to have an old fire truck out here, but he just sold it to Rich (Merriam). Rich is going to refurbish it.”
Rich Merriam was one of the firefighters on the scene. He soaked the pole with water and checked it carefully to make sure it had sufficiently cooled.
With the tense moment in the past, Wix said to everyone present, “Sorry to interrupt everybody’s dinner.”