Squirrel sizzles as lights go dim | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Squirrel sizzles as lights go dim

Jeff Munson

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / A squirrel that made contact between two power lines at the corner of Fourth Street and Roger Avenue caused an electrical outage along Emerald Bay Road.

A squirrel was the culprit behind a power outage Tuesday that left about 3,200 Sierra Pacific Power customers without electricity along Emerald Bay Road and the “Y” in South Lake Tahoe.

Power was fully restored by 2:45 p.m.

According to South Lake Tahoe firefighters and Sierra Pacific, the squirrel was on wires atop the power pole when it was electrocuted, caught fire and fell to the ground, causing a 10-by-10-foot fire around the power pole. The fire was quickly doused by nearby residents using fire extinguishers.

“All I can say is it is officially the first squirrel fire I’ve seen in four years as a firefighter,” said Marty Creel, a South Lake Tahoe firefighter from Engine 3. “He looked like he had been electrocuted. He was still and the tail was sticking straight out with some charring.”

At the same time reports of the power pole fire came into police dispatch, reports of a widespread power outage surfaced, extending from Fifth Street to Emerald Bay and the “Y.”

Sierra Pacific Power spokeswoman Faye Andersen confirmed that the squirrel touched a live line, sparking the outage, which lasted about 25 minutes for all but 20 customers.

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Animals such as birds have been known to cause power surges. But Tuesday’s incident was larger than most, Andersen said.

“This does happen periodically. Poor little guy,” Andersen said. “They get into the lines, sometimes jumping from a tree onto a (live) line.”