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Truck snags utility lines, catches fire in Jackson Twp.

Crews responded to a “fully involved” vehicle fire Thursday, Sept. 21, after a truck snagged a utility line in Jackson Township. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle

JACKSON TWP — Emergency crews responded to a “fully involved” vehicle fire Thursday, Sept. 21, after a truck snagged a utility line near 334 Evans Road.

“It came in as a vehicle crash, truck into wires and a male with a leg injury,” said Doug Pickett, deputy chief with the Harmony Fire District.

Harmony Fire District received the call at 3:34 p.m., sending a rescue truck to the scene.

“One of our firefighters that lives up the street showed up, called into the 911 center by phone and said, ‘It’s a working fire, and it’s going good,’” Pickett said.

The department then upgraded the call, he said, bringing in both Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company and the Evans City Volunteer Fire Department.

“The driver had jumped from the vehicle; that’s how he injured his leg,” Pickett said. “Because he had wires on the truck, he jumped to avoid electrocution — but it’s just minor injuries.”

With the driver transported to UPMC Passavant for treatment, Pickett said the road was closed between 323 Evans Road and its intersection with Ridge Road.

As trucks arrived on the scene at approximately 3:50 p.m., small explosions sounded from the vehicle and buzzing live wires lit small fires in the surrounding forest.

“When there’s live wires in play, we can’t involve any water because electricity will travel back,” Pickett said. “We obviously had spot fires the whole way down, but you just have to secure the area and keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t spread.”

While crews stood by ensuring the fires did not move toward to any of the residences, Pickett said Penn Power was contacted to make safe the line.

Matt Gebhardt, a troubleshooter for the utility company, arrived on the scene just after two of the fallen lines contacted, arcing and killing the power.

Gebhardt said he proceeded to disconnect the broken line and give crews the go-ahead to begin fighting the blaze.

“When it arced, it killed the power, but with the liability of sending people in if it’s still live, we let him make that determination,” Pickett said. “Once he did his thing, we were able to come in and put it out.”

By 5:30 p.m., crews had put out the worst of the fires and begun cleanup at the site.

“Once we’re done putting this all down — and we’ve still got some high temperatures, the engine block holds a lot of a heat and the fuel tank is really hot — we’ll leave and it will be Penn Power in charge of clean up and traffic,” Pickett said.

The truck, a hydroseeder owned by MMC Land Management, struck the wire with its spray “turret,” according to Pickett, knocking the utility poles down.

While staff from the company were assessing the damage, they declined to comment.

Despite extensive damage to the truck’s front end, Pickett said the vehicle would be towed from the site before Penn Power crews began their own cleanup efforts.

“Once they get the truck out of here, we have probably three to four hours worth of work,” Gebhardt said.

He said the road would remained closed Thursday evening as work continued and that the utility company would be sending a team to clean up chemicals at the scene.

“Our transformer spilled a little bit of oil, and that’s part of our procedure,” he said. “That plus the fluids off the truck and all of the water, who knows what they’re going to have to clean.”

Also responding were the Jackson Township Police Department and Cranberry Township Fire Police.

Crews responded to a “fully involved” vehicle fire Thursday, Sept. 21, after a truck snagged a utility line in Jackson Township. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle
Crews responded to a “fully involved” vehicle fire Thursday, Sept. 21, after a truck snagged a utility line in Jackson Township. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle
Matt Gebhardt, a troubleshooter for Penn Power, prepares to disconnect a fallen line from a pole near the scene of an accident Thursday, Sept. 21. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle
Crews responded to a “fully involved” vehicle fire Thursday, Sept. 21, after a truck snagged a utility line in Jackson Township. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle
Crews stand by near fallen utility lines while waiting for Penn Power to disconnect the live wires Thursday, Sept. 21. Austin Uram/Butler Eagle

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