Truck fire causes power outage

City employees honored for actions 

REED CITY – An emergency situation causing a power outage on Thursday resulted in city employees being honored for their actions in the crisis.

Around 10 a.m., a dump truck caught on fire on Commerce Drive in Reed City after the back of the truck became hooked on a power line.

High voltage electricity conducted through the truck and sparks began to shoot from the rear tires while the driver was still inside.

Crews from the Reed City Fire Department responded to the incident first and encouraged the driver to stay in his vehicle and close his door. The interior of the truck already was melting from the flames.

After remaining in the vehicle for 30 minutes, the power line cable burned through and dropped away from the truck and the driver was able to exit the vehicle by jumping out the passenger side door.

“Later we found out the voltage of that line had a circle of 30 feet,” said Reed City manager Ron Marek. “Even if he had jumped 10 feet (before the wire dropped), he would have died. (Our firemen) saved this man’s life.”

The truck was delivering crushed gravel to lay the Powerline Supply parking lot east of Reed City near U.S. 10, when the aluminum box of the truck made contact with a power line.

“Those trailers are aluminum and it takes a minimum of 1220 degrees to melt them,” said assistant fire chief Dave Belden.

He estimates approximately 50 percent of the city of Reed City lost power for three hours due to the incident.

For the nearby wastewater treatment plant, the outage could not have come at a worse time. Plant supervisor Curt Brackenrich was on vacation and a senior operator also was away, leaving rookie employees Eric Worm and Bryan Pontz - who began working at the plant just three and 18 months ago, respectively - to handle the situation themselves.

Following their instincts, the pair called the generator company, shut off breakers and individually unplugged each of the plant’s roughly 50 machines. In communication with Marek, the pair developed a backup plan for a prolonged outage and anticipated other issues before they arose.

“It gave me a peace of mind knowing I was out of town and they were handling the situation so well,” said Brackenrich. “They really handled it well, especially in regards to our equipment.”

At the Reed City council meeting Monday, Reed City Fire Department Fire Chief Jim Decker and Belden along with Pontz and Worm were honored for their actions in the crisis.

“On behalf of the council, myself, the community and the fire department, I would like to thank these individuals for their service to the community,” Marek said Monday.

No one was injured during the incident and the driver of the truck went back to work the next day.

In other news, the council approved an increase in department head salaries which failed at the last meeting when the council split 3-3 when councilwoman Darlene Fuller said she would not vote for the increase until Brackenrich received his level A license from the Department of Environmental Quality.

Brackenrich was notified Monday morning that he had passed the test and received the license. Fuller was not at the meeting.

The council also voted to increase Marek’s salary by 1.5 percent and authorized him to use the city truck instead of his own vehicle when driving on the job.

The next meeting of the Reed City council will be at 7 p.m. on Aug. 20 at Reed City City Hall.