Power pole explosion, collapse in West Valley City forces evacuations

Mar 7, 2022, 7:08 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:38 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A West Valley City neighborhood is back to normal and families have been allowed to return home, after a power pole explosion and fire forced several people to evacuate overnight.

It was one of many problems Rocky Mountain Power dealt with over the weekend, after heavy spring snow left 30,000 people in the dark.

Near 1300 West and 3300 South Sunday evening, Tim Rubiolo took a front row seat he didn’t ask for to a dramatic show that, concerningly, was just a few doors down from his home.

“All of a sudden, there was a couple really loud noises and flashing, you know, really bright,” Rubiolo recounted. “That’s when we come out and seen that the top of the pole fell off, and the wires just touching each other.”

Videos posted on social media show what appears to be large explosions. In one video, an electric buzzing noise is heard as a fireball lights up the sky.

“Next thing I know, there’s three parts of a telephone line in my yard,” said Tyler Nix.

He realized that a large power pole that sits right in his front yard, just feet from his home, had caught fire.

A Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson explained that it’s likely the line arced, potentially from dusty insulators that became wet in the snowstorm.

Company spokesperson David Eskelsen said the power line issues in the Salt Lake Valley began Friday evening. At first, wind was to blame for the outages, but as the snow began to collect, Eskelsen said they began to see more trouble.

Outages continued overnight both nights and through the rest of the weekend. Some 30,000 customers were affected by the storm, Eskelsen explained. RMP had to call in crews from southern Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho to help make repairs and restore electricity.

Once Nix saw the pole on fire, he immediately started thinking of evacuating his wife, baby, and cats.

“Went back inside, told my wife just like, ‘Alright, grab as much as you can,’” he said.

Soon after, a firefighter was knocking on their door, telling them to evacuate.

“I was just like, ‘Do we have any time?’” Nix asked. “And firefighter was like, ‘No. The pole is coming down one way or the other, that’s just a fact. So, you got to get going.’”

Jazmin Infante Rincon, a 13-year-old who lives with her parents, brother, and sister next door to Nix, also got that same knock at the door.

“It was when the wires came down, it made kind of like an explosion type of reaction up in the roof,” she explained, of sparks hitting her house.

Jazmin said there were flames on the roof of her family’s home that firefighters had to put out. She could see wires hanging across the top of the house.

Because of that, it wasn’t safe to stay there. At first, the family tried to kill time at Walmart, but after realizing they wouldn’t be let back in until morning, they ended up just parking near the neighborhood.

“We slept inside our car,” Jazmin said.

Nix, his wife, baby, and cats all trekked down to Spanish Fork to stay with a friend.

Rubiolo wasn’t evacuated, but his next-door neighbor — who lives between Jazmin’s home and Rubiolo’s home — was told he needed to leave, too.

Rubiolo explained that he took his neighbor in and let him sleep on the couch.

While the overnight evacuation was a huge headache, after seeing the videos of the explosions, Nix is just glad he had a home to come back to.

“That was probably, other than just making sure my family was okay, the scariest part,” he said.

Neighbors in that area said they did not lose power, even when the power pole was on fire. However, residents in a different nearby neighborhood said they lost power overnight and it was still not restored at 12 p.m.

Eskelsen said they were down to the last few hundred people who still didn’t have power, and expected everything to be fixed and restored by sundown Monday evening

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Power pole explosion, collapse in West Valley City forces evacuations