Fire department urges caution after transformer explosion

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ASHLAND, Ky. (FOX 56) – Monday morning, the Ashland Fire Department responded to a report of a smoking transformer next to the Ashland Grace Church of the Nazarene.

Soon after they got there, the transformer exploded.

“Sometimes there’s just a little bit of smoke and that’s it, and sometimes there’s a big explosion,” said Brad Maggard, the fire marshal for the Ashland Fire Department.

People who saw the explosion said it sounded like a bomb.

“Generally it’s not that big of a deal till the power company gets there and isolates the power and sometimes there’s some awe factor like there was yesterday with an explosion,” Maggard said.

Maggard says these explosions happen when a transformer goes bad, a wire is shorted, there is a cross in the line or the electrical system is damaged.

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“Explosions aren’t common, but we go to power line problems and transformer fires pretty regularly a couple times a month easily,” Maggard said. “Generally, it’s hotter weather that we see it but it can happen at anytime.”

Transformers are filled with mineral oil. The oil can overheat until it spontaneously combusts and explodes.

“It blows the oil out everywhere. It’s an explosion, so if you’re nearby you get covered in hot oil and flames and it would be a bad day for you,” said Maggard.

He warns people to stay back if they see a transformer smoking. He recommends a clearance of at least 100 feet.

“It’s a good reminder of why people need to keep their distance away from any downed power lines or overheated transformer, electrical problems, any type of cable lines that are down. People need to stay away from it because it can turn into a pretty major situation pretty quickly,” he said. “People do crazy things and forget how dangerous electricity can be, so they need to keep their distance.”

If you see a transformer smoking, Maggard recommends you stay back and call 911. The fire department will respond, as well as the power company, to turn off the electricity.

“They do all the maintenance on the systems, preventative maintenance to prevent these things from happening but sometimes they do,” Maggard said.

No one was near the pole when it exploded. There was also no damage to the church.

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