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Sacramento Firefighters, PG&E Test Technique To Spare Utility Poles From Flames

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Firefighters tested a new technique to help keep power lines off the ground and the lights on in nearby homes if a fire breaks out.

PG&E and fire crews say the training is critical because it's not a matter of if, but when it will happen.

The Sacramento Fire Department and PG&E teamed up to test a common fire retardant on power poles. Six power poles were placed in an open field near the American River Parkway, surrounded by extremely dry vegetation. Three were treated with the same retardant used in drops from air tankers.

PG&E says the test is important because if the poles go up in flames, they can make a wildfire more dangerous with downed power lines and outages. Also, at $20,000 each, the poles aren't cheap to replace.

"The cost of the retardant probably less than $20 a pole to treat the pole," said spokesman Scott Holmquist.

The treated poles smoldered during the test, while the untreated poles didn't stand a chance against the fast-moving flames.

PG&E says the retardant only lasts about a month, and even less if it rains.

"When the fire would occur we would pretreat the poles ahead of that where the fire is kind of expected to go ahead of that," Holmquist said.

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