Responded to a call of structure fire with smoke visible on the roof. There was an electrical short in the panel at the point of entry into the house. Breakers were tripped and the service wires broke off at the weather head on the roof. There was no contact with the roof as the ground wire continued to hold the live wires from the service pole.
Neighbors saw sparks and smoke at the electrical panel and coming from the weather head. There was no fire and arcs/sparking was stopped by the time the first due engine arrived, 3 minutes after the call. While we were waiting for the electric company's arrival, I observed a group of 8 fire fighters standing under the lives wires that were now suspended only by the ground wire.
When I brought this to their attention, the response was "Well the ground wire is holding them up". I asked if anyone inspected the ground wire to ensure its connection with the weather head. No one had and you could not tell by standing on the ground, looking up, onto the roof. The group of fire fighters did move but seemed unphased by what they had done. After all, they were standing in the driveway waiting for the electric company.
These are pretty routine events for us now and not much thought is given to broken wires if there is no arcing/sparking upon arrival. We learned that you cannot forget about situational awareness at any time on the scene. I expect this will not be the last time this type of event happens and I will have to remind them again.
Written by a member of the fire service community
Courtesy of National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System