MILTON-FREEWATER — A fire led to a power outage Wednesday morning, Oct. 13, for the town of Milton-Freewater and some surrounding areas, including College Place.
Milton-Freewater City Manager Linda Hall said an accumulation of dust was the likely cause of the fire to the 69-kilovolt transmission line.
“It’s very common when you go a long time without rain — and wind and summer storms accumulate — a layer of dirt or dust builds on the lines,” she said. “When you get your first rainstorm after that, it’s conductive, so it causes a fire on the line.”
In this case, Hall explained, the pole carrying the major transmission line also caught fire and was heavily damaged. The fire triggered a shutdown to the area’s electrical system.
This is a problem affecting cities all over the world, Hall said. It has happened before in Milton-Freewater, but she said it has been a while.
“It’s not super common, but it’s not super rare,” she said.
Hall said she believed power would be restored at 2 p.m. that day.
City hall was able to stay open, thanks to backup generators. Ambulance and fire services remained operational, Hall said. Traffic lights were out, however, and police were responding to problems resulting from the power outage.
Milton-Freewater has a population of 7,050 residents. A person answering calls at the police station referred to her situation as “Grand Central Station” as many people called to learn what was happening and how soon the power would flow again.
Without power, the Milton-Freewater School District was not able to receive calls or emails, but made a statement on Facebook. The district posted schools would provide lunches to students and continue bus service on time. Staff would be outside the school buildings to “assist with student check out.”
A Facebook post from the city recommended keeping refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep food cool.