BAKERSFIELD – As the remnants of a nor’easter pounded Vermont with wind and rain yesterday, Bakersfield Fire Chief Curtis Barber spent the day convincing drivers that yes, the portion of King Road blocked by emergency and utility vehicles was really closed.
Barber made the decision to close the road after the storm caused an electrical line to contact a nearby tree, sending thousands of volts of electricity through the tree and lighting it on fire. “We take every precaution in these situations” said Barber, “there are so many possible outcomes, most of which include a live electrical line, a flaming tree branch, or both falling onto the roadway. We just don’t want anyone to be under it when it goes.” Barber had his firefighters follow standard procedure and blocked the road with emergency vehicles, traffic cones, and portable “road closed” signs.
Still, some residents seemed unsure what the emergency vehicles, cones, and signs meant. “Is the road really closed?” Asked Bakersfield resident Quinton Couture, “The ‘road closed’ sign I had to drive around was laying on the ground so I wasn’t sure” said Couture as the electrical line arced white hot plasma 40 feet from his vehicle. Barber told Couture that the sign had probably blown down and he would have someone put it back up. He also told the driver that yes, the road really was closed.
Other residents were aware the road was closed, but wondered if they could still drive through. “What if I go really fast?” asked Amber Dunsmore, who regularly travels on King Road on her way to work, “I could make it through before anything bad happens.”
“It’s not really a matter of if the branch or line falls but when,” explained Barber, “I don’t want you under it when it goes. Also, I think going faster would just make the situation more dangerous.”
“You mean I really have to find another way to get to work?”
“Yes,” replied Barber, “the road is really closed.”
As of this morning Chief Barber was still on scene waiting for the local utility company to disconnect the power.