Power Goes Out As The Crow Fries

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At this time of year, you might have expected it to be a roast turkey.

But it was a crow that literally cooked its own goose Saturday morning by landing on power lines creating a short-circuit and "fireball explosion" that cut off electrical power to 12,000 Rim country homes and businesses for 40 minutes.

The fried fowl described by APS District Manager Jim Spencer as "one big bird" landed at "absolutely the worst possible place" on power lines within the APS substation at Longhorn and McLane Roads at 9:28 a.m. Saturday.

The result: the fine-feathered trespasser was zapped with 21,000 volts that created a "big fireball about 20 feet in diameter," said former Payson Fire Chief Chuck Jacobs, whose house overlooks the substation.

"We were home, the power went out, and we looked out the window and saw this big fireball," Jacobs said. "It's an incredible thing to see. I've lived in this house for 24 years, and I've seen this happen about four or five times."

Almost always, Jacobs added, the culprit is either a bird or a cat who makes the mistake of touching two circuits at the same time.

"You really can't do anything to prevent this situation," Spencer said. "This is a one-in-10,000 type of phenomena. It just doesn't happen that often."

The fireball, Spencer said, is "exactly the kind of thing that happens with that much voltage and a direct short-circuit situation. This one blew off the porcelain insulators on (the) buswork device (upon which the bird landed); it was just sheared off by the force of the explosion."

When the smoke cleared, it was determined that APS equipment had been damaged to the monetary tune of $3,000 to $5,000.

"Everybody in our district was out of service except those who are served off of the Strawberry and Preacher Canyon substations," Spencer said. Included in the Payson district are all homes and businesses in town, as well as those south to Tonto Basin, north to the south edge of Pine, and in parts of Star Valley.

As for the bird, Spencer thinks it suffered a fast and painless death.

"It wasn't the electricity that killed him," he said. "It was the electrical explosion. He didn't suffer. Apparently, he was just coming in to find a place to perch. He picked the absolute worst location in the entire substation.

"Birds do this all the time and it doesn't cause any problems. But this one's huge wing span, I'm sure, is what got him into trouble."

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