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Flames and an explosion, not to mention the loss of electricity, got folks' attention on S.E. Duke Street

DAVID F. ASHTON - Flames belch out of a conduit at the top of a utility pole, after a squirrel chewed through insulation and shorted out the cables headed down the conduit. Alas, the hapless rodent did not survive.It was an unusual sight, on Tuesday afternoon, August 4 – flames shooting up from the top of a conduit, running the full height of a wooden utility pole, on the north side of the 5300 block of S.E. Duke Street – across from the Apostolic Faith Church campus.

Woodstock Fire Station 25's Engine and firefighters were dispatched at 4:06 p.m., and verified the claims of startled neighbors who had reported the fire vigorously shooting up from an electrical pipe.

After the fire crew had arrived and was fighting the flames, at 4:21 p.m. there was a loud bang – sounding like a shotgun blast – from the top of the conduit, at which point the fire and smoke became more intense. Before long, however, firefighters managed to get it extinguished.

"I've done some research into this outage," reported Portland General Electric (PGE) spokesperson Andrea Platt, "and found that the incident involved a squirrel, which circumvented some of the protections we have in place.

"Unfortunately, the squirrel happened to 'form a circuit' between wires," Platt told THE BEE. "This affected a protective fuse, which when overloaded cuts the flow of power – as planned. So when a powerful spark crosses the gap that's been opened, the result is a loud pop or bang.

"The protective fuse helps protect the rest of the system from damage," she explained. However, it did not protect the squirrel itself, which did not survive the incident.

PGE crews were soon on hand to reset the fuse; and, after repairs, the six-hour outage ended for the affected three homes and the church building.

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