Trees and electricity: GVEA talks dangers of power lines, challenges of repair

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 4:10 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Fairbanks has trees and power lines everywhere -- but when the two come together, it is a recipe for disaster. With the above average rainfall this summer, the risk of trees falling on to lines is even higher.

Alex Olesen is the Right of Way Maintenance Superintendent for Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) and says that anytime there are trees entangled with or leaning on power lines, people should call GVEA to have someone come out and address the problem.

“It’s the best option, because that is what we do. That’s our specialty, that’s what we are trained in and experienced with, dealing with trees around power lines -- and it’s a very potentially dangerous situation if anything does come in contact with the lines. A person could get badly injured or killed,” said Olesen.

The amount of electrical conductivity can vary greatly depending on conditions, so he said it is never wise to approach the tree. Trees can transmit electricity into the ground -- which is called the step potential -- and how far the electricity travels is also dependent on conditions.

“It’s impossible to know exactly how far away that electricity is traveling from the base of the contact of the tree or whatever,” Olesen said.

If trees do fall on a line, Olesen says to stay away from the area and call GVEA -- but if it is in a public area, then help warn others of the danger. While the threat is there, keeping the public away from the danger is important.

Olesen also said that GVEA can take care of trees that have the potential to fall on power lines. He said residents can call (907) 452-1151 to let them know about trees that could potentially fall on a line and cause an outage. GVEA will send a crew out, and if the tree is a threat, remove it for free. Even if a tree isn’t threatening a power line but could hit a line if it was cut down, Olesen says they can disconnect the power line for free. This allows people to safely cut down trees with out risking lines. Once the trees are cut, GVEA will come back and reattach the line.

For more information you can also visit GVEA’s website.

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