Indio residents concerned about living near power lines

Claudia Buccio

A house fire in a neighborhood in Indio has left many residents concerned about their safety. As of now, the case is still under investigation, and authorities are still trying to find the cause of the fire. A neighbor said he saw sparks coming from the power lines in his own backyard, but he was able to stop it after firing a hose against the sparks. 

In the meantime, families were left without electricity while workers were trying to fix the power lines.

Marisol Cedillos is a mother of two who lives a block away from the fire. She said that living right by those overhead electricity lines poles is a matter of concern for her.

“I feel scared. I start to think well. What are we supposed to do? We can’t really do anything,” Cedillos said.

In a statement, Marion Champion from the Imperial Irrigation District said: “Generally speaking, overhead lines are safe as long as adequate vegetation clearances are maintained, and the lines have not been the subject of tampering or vandalism.”

This still makes residents like Cedillos wonder what could happen in the event of an earthquake or strong winds?

“Maybe we could walk out really quickly but my kids are really young. I have three. My niece is in there too.  Can you imagine?,” she said.

Even with those conditions, Champion said: “The energy grid is equipped with many different fail-safes, including grounding mechanisms and lightning arrestors, which are designed to minimize the possibility of harm to property, equipment, the environment and / or people.”

As Cedillos walked with her kids, she looked at the poles surrounding her home.

“I’m worried because we are really close to them and with mother nature, anything can happen,” Cedillo said. “It’s concerning.”

This neighbor is not alone. Jose Cortez lives right next door from the man who fired his hose after seeing some sparks coming from the overhead lines in his backyard. Although Cortez was aware of the power lines being so close to his home, he said he never thought it could be a problem.

“A lot of the plants and trees in my backyard touch the wires, but it’s never been that bad,” Cortez said. “I guess it’s been a concern, .but it hadn’t affect us this bad.”   

Although the case is still under investigation, some wonder if underground electricity systems are safer. According to Champion, both systems have pros and cons.

“Underground lines are more appealing aesthetically; however, they are more costly to install, are harder to make repairs on (outages tend to be longer for emergency repairs) and are limited to the amount of voltage they can carry,” she said.

The city of Indio said that for now there aren’t any plans of changing the overhead lines for underground ones. Underground lines are mostly used in new constructions around the Coachella Valley.