Utilities recognize that wooden poles are vulnerable to fire. However, replacing millions of wooden poles with metal or composite ones isn’t realistic from a cost and labor perspective. Reinforcing wooden poles with passive fire protection options is a promising alternative. To maintain the benefits of wood poles, utilities are choosing to deploy passive fire protection solutions in high risk fire areas, controlled burn zones, and active fire paths. This can reduce the duration and cost associated with power outages after a fire. There are two leading options for protecting wooden poles from wildfires: coatings and wraps. These products offer different benefits in terms of serviceability, ease of installation and removal, and breathability.
Hubbell Power Systems recently introduced a new product called Fire Protection Coating (FPC). This latex intumescent coating is formulated to preserve the structural integrity of wooden utility poles in the event of a fire. When poles are coated with FPC, an intumescent char forms as a reaction to heat or fire, ultimately reducing the risk of catastrophic failure. Without an available test standard for passive fire protection of wooden utility poles, suppliers and utilities are using a combination of screening methods to validate performance. FPC has been tested using the proposed ASTM method for wooden utility poles. Once an official standard is put in place it is expected to include mechanical loading, weathering evaluation, and a performance baseline for comparing methods.