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Fire Protection Fabric: A Solution to Pole Burning in ECG
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Fire Protection Fabric: A Solution to Pole Burning in ECG

As I boarded the O.A bus from Bolgatanga to Accra, I gave a sigh of relief from the mighty harmattan which had wrestled me throughout my entire stay during the Christmas holidays. Little did I know that the grass along both sides of the road had had their own share of pain from the devastating twin brother (fire) of the harmattan. As flood washes away structures elsewhere in the capital, fire swoops the entire grassland in the Savanna belt of Ghana.What a pity!!!

Throughout the journey, the electrical engineer in me could not help but take into account the effects of these fires to the electrical poles erected in the grassland or similar conditions. Putting cost to the replacement of these poles and the loss of electricity supply made me cringe inside. For a moment, I was excited that this problem was outside the boundaries of ECG and my company was insured. Then I had an electrical epiphany, I remembered that this phenomenon of pole burning is not limited to NEDCo (Distribution Company for Northern Ghana) because several of ECG’s districts have poles planted in bushfire prone areas.

After taking my shower when I arrived in Accra, I started to think through as to what solution could be suitable in addressing this pole burning phenomenon with the least cost. As an R&D Engineer, the only convincing answer that came to mind was the use of steel poles which ECG is already employing. However, the cost of replacing all wooden poles in bush fire prone areas is unconceivable. Mind you the cost of steel poles is almost twice as much as the wooden poles. “How economical is changing all wooden poles that are likely to burn due to intermittent bush fires with steel ones? There must be a way out,” I thought to myself.

Upon resumption of work, I had discussions with my boss nicknamed Dr. Ferroresonnance (I pray he does not read this article),  he made me aware of a proposed solution to the pole burning phenomenon with the use of a fire protection fabric. “Fabric!!!” I exclaimed unbelievably and in a state of shock. “What type of fabric can save a pole from bush fire?” I queried. I was giving a brochure and manual about the product to help my ignorance and engage my curiosity.

A pilot project was proposed for 5 ECG regions with a total of 2000 poles considered. The fire protection fabric was wrapped around the base of the pole up to about 6feet.

My visit to the pilot project site revealed that 50% of the project sites had experienced bush fires after the fire protection fabric was installed. To my surprise, not a single pole with the fire protection fabric got burnt. The evidence became clear when it was observed that other poles without the fabric within the same vicinity were burnt. (There are pictures attached to this article that verifies my claim). Still not convinced, I decided to gather a number of the dry grass/weeds under one pole protected by the fabric and then set it on fire. This happened at a cleared piece of land in a village next to Otuam, the hometown of the former president of Ghana, the late J.E.A. Mills.

The farmers and my entire team at the site watched the demonstration in awe as the fire had no effect on the pole under investigation. After five minutes under that intense flame, we quenched the fire after a successful demonstration. The fabric itself had not damaged only the sooth from the fire, that had settled on the surface but it was washed away by water. I remembered that famous quote from the Good Book “for lack of knowledge my people perish”.

As a child finding solutions to problems has been my passion and this drove me to pursue an engineering career. I felt fulfilled when feedback from all the districts which the pilot exercise was carried out was extremely positive. The project is expected to be rolled over to all poles under ECG jurisdiction. Finally, an economical solution has been found for the burning poles, Oh pole protection fabric, thou art a Pole Saver. My job as a researcher still continues……….

Kingsford J.A. Atanga (AEE) - Research and Development Division -ECG

Original article can be found here

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