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Hazard

Live utilities

Hazard Knowledge

At operational incidents, live utility services present a number of significant hazards to firefighter safety and to the effective resolution of the incident. Gas, oil and solid fuels have the potential to accelerate the development of the fire, potentially suddenly and with little or no warning. Renewable energy generators can continue to supply live electricity after incoming mains supply has been isolated and therefore continue to present a risk of electrocution.

Utilities include:

See National Operational Guidance: Utilities and fuel

Identifying and isolating utilities should be made a priority to:

  • Support firefighter safety
  • Reduce further damage to the property
  • Prevent the uncontrolled release of flammable or toxic gas
  • Reduce the possibility of electrocution
  • Reduce the possibility of further ignition sources and firespread

The location of utility points can vary enormously and should be ascertained by the incident commander or nominated safety officer at an early stage of the incident.

Significant hazards may exist where fire has started inside underground utility distribution ducting. Fire development and subsequent firespread can lead to pressurisation of the underground system, which can cause pavement level inspection covers to be blown off with an explosive effect. Additionally, fire can travel significant distances underground, spread to buildings and affect other utilities such as high-voltage electricity, gas and water. Underground cable fires can produce large volumes of carbon monoxide and other toxic gases which can travel to nearby premises.