A tall tree’s branches swing over a high voltage power line. Pedestrians hear a strange buzzing sound and then see a flash of flames as the branches dip onto the lines. The whole tree is eventually aflame as 70,000 volts pump through it. The fire finally stops when the electricity grounds, shutting power off thanks to a built-in safety feature.
This frightening scenario happened two years ago in Washington State and was captured on a YouTube video.
A similar fire could happen right out front of Rim Country Middle School, an APS spokesperson warned the Payson Unified School District.
This summer, APS plans to remove several towering oaks, junipers and pines threatening power lines in front of RCMS.
The announcement briefly sparked outrage from some school board members who hoped to see the trees trimmed and not removed.
However, APS said removal is the only long-term solution.
“This is definitely a necessity,” said Board President Barbara Underwood.
The power lines in front of RCMS feed into several major substations, providing power all the way to Rye and Gisela south of Payson. If a tree limb cut the power, the whole grid would go dark.
On both the West and East Coasts, long-term power outages have occurred due to trees, said Kent Bushman, APS section leader of Forestry and Special Programs. “A utility can be fined up to a million dollars if it doesn’t manage them.”
APS plans to take out several 80-foot tall pines and 30-foot tall oaks and junipers to clear space around the 30- to 45-foot high lines.
At this time, it is too costly to bury the lines and the work would likely destroy most of the trees’ roots anyway, he said. Maples in the area are young enough to survive transplantation, said Bushman.
APS will pay for the tree removal from maintenance funds.