Hants County firefighter shaken after close call with downed power line

A firefighter says he is shaken up after he had a close call with a downed power line while fighting a house fire in Three Mile Plains, N.S.

Crews responded to the fire in the 200 block of Mountain Road around 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

A 36-year-old firefighter from Brooklyn, N.S. was helping fight the fire when he stepped in a puddle near a downed power line at the scene.

The resulting jolt was caught on tape, and experts say it's a good example of the kind of hazard firefighters face on a daily basis.

“We've done a lot of medical calls and close calls and stuff like that, but I've never seen an electrifying incident like that,” said T.J. Foley, the veteran firefighter who got the shock of his life.

Just off camera, Foley steps in a puddle not far from a downed power line leading to the burning house.

“The line had arced, and I made the mistake of lifting my foot and then it arced again and gave me the really good jolt that you see that threw me to the ground there,” Foley said.

Foley can be seen on video falling to the ground. His helmet falls off and he quickly scrambles to get up as his fellow firefighters rush to his side.

Power crews arrived to shut off the power a short time later.

Neighbours, who'd been away camping, rushed home when they heard about the fire, and arrived in time to see an ambulance dispatched to help Foley.

“They checked to make sure he was OK,   and then he walked up through our yard and walked over, too, I believe he got in the ambulance,” said neighbor Ashley Swinamer.

Foley was taken to hospital as a precaution, but he was released a few hours later.

He told CTV Atlantic he’s fine physically, but he admitted to being shaken up. He was released after spending a few hours in the hospital.

Brooklyn’s Deputy Fire Chief is relieved Foley is OK, but notes power lines are something firefighters always have to be aware of.

“With the heavy fire damage like that, the mast will fall away or the wires will burn-off the homes, and then they become a ground-hazard,” said deputy chief Jason Cochrane.

Nova Scotia Power spokeswoman Tiffany Chase wrote in an e-mail that the utility provides safety awareness training to first responders to prepare them on how to recognize and safely manage situations involving power lines.

“We regularly assist emergency responders at fire scenes at their request by securing and shutting down power from the transformer on-site,” Chase wrote.

“If anyone sees a downed wire they should consider it and the environment around it live, and stay a safe distance away. Call us immediately and our trained personnel will safely de-energize the line.”

The two-bedroom home was destroyed, leaving one man homeless.

There is no word on a cause at this time.

As for that other cliche about being lucky to be alive?

“A hundred per cent,” said Foley. “My wife told me last night, that if I ended up dying there last night, she'd bring me back to life just to kill me again!”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.