Arborist treed in Hazelwood; escapes electrocution

See why firefighters were delayed in helping this tree-trimmer down, after the tree in which he was working became electrified …

An arborist waits until a PGE crew arrives to untangle a rain-soaked branch from the tree in which he was working from a high-voltage power line.

Story by David F. Ashton; PF&R/Dick Harris photos
A project that started as a simple tree-trimming job turned into a harrowing rescue on November 6 in the Hazelwood Neighborhood.

“The call came in from the homeowner at 9:52 a.m.,” reported Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) spokesman Lt. Allen Oswalt. “Firefighters from PF&R Truck 7 responded to the 500 block of SE 130th Avenue on the report of a man that had been electrocuted – and that the man was still hanging in a tree.”

Hangs in electrified tree on fire
Oswalt said a branch of the tree in which the arborist was working was wet with rain, and had fallen into the power line. “When the crew arrived, the branch was arcing, sparking, and starting to catch fire.”

The treed man appeared to be a professional arborist, reported PF&R’s Lt. Jeff Klug. “He told us if he touched anything got a severe shock. We kept talking with him to keep him calm, and let him know our plan of action.”

Klug noted that the arborist’s boots were insulating him from the tree, and that he was not getting a jolt of electricity as long as he didn’t touch anything. He added that this arborist’s proper use of safety gear kept him from taking a nasty tumble from this electrified tree.

Apparently the whole tree was energized with electricity, and an immediate rescue attempt would have exposed firefighters to electrocution, explained Klug. Although the arborist was cold and tired, and hanging in midair in the rain, he had to wait for a crew from Portland General Electric (PGE) to de-energize the power lines – or come up with another solution.

Instead of shutting down the entire power grid, a PGE worker uses an insulated pole to dislodge the branch from the live power lines.

PGE to the rescue
“Within minutes, PGE workers were on-scene,” Oswalt told us. “Working from a boom rig on a truck, and using an insulated pole, the PGE lineman was able to pull the fallen tree limb free of the power line. This broke the circuit that was allowing electricity to run through the entire tree.”

Once the power was shut off the arborist was able to climb down, and was checked by paramedics. He had no injuries from the harrowing incident, and he refused transport to the hospital.

“Several things worked together that helped this event have a good conclusion,” summarized Oswalt. “The arborist had good safety equipment and used it, the neighbor called 9-1-1 promptly – and PGE arrived quickly.”

PF&R’s Lt. Jeff Klug checks with the arborist after he climbed down tree to determine if the man has been injured. It seemed the tree-worker was more embarrassed than anything.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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