Lineman Travis Boortz, left, and Jake Morgan, right, demonstrate the electrical arc when a metal ladder comes close to a live electrical wire during a demonstrationWednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lineman Travis Boortz, left, and Jake Morgan, right, demonstrate the electrical arc when a metal ladder comes close to a live electrical wire during a demonstrationWednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Downed power lines aren’t something to mess with

A demonstration showed what 2,300 volts of electricity can do to a hot dog Wednesday.

EVERETT — It wasn’t your average barbecue. A group of guys in hard hats cooked up a hot dog Wednesday by zapping it with 2,300 amps of electricity.

Using a safety pole, a journeyman lineman touched the link to a live power line. A flash of blue and white light erupted from the wire, stretching out into a 3-foot arc as the sausage was forced away.

It cooked from the inside out. The only exterior evidence left by the jolt was a charred split.

That’s what can happen to humans when they come in contact with live wires, said Jake Larson, assistant lineman training coordinator.

He and a crew use the Snohomish County Public Utility District’s High-Voltage Demonstration Trailer, a down-sized power line, to demonstrate the force of live wires.

The PUD built the trailer last year to show why keeping a 30-foot distance from downed lines is necessary.

After storms, lineman Jake Morgan said homeowners often try to move wires off their driveways or cut tree limbs away from cables themselves.

The linemen have some advice — don’t do it.

“Just because lines are on the ground doesn’t mean they’re not energized,” he said. “It can look tame but still be violent.”

Electrical currents also can travel. You don’t have to touch a wire to get shocked, Morgan said. The current can jump and travel to objects, like aluminum ladders, several feet away.

Everett Fire Department members look at the deep gash in a hot dog caused by an electrical arc during a demonstration Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett Fire Department members look at the deep gash in a hot dog caused by an electrical arc during a demonstration Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett Fire Department Capt. Rich Langford brought his crew to see the demonstration. The rest of the department is scheduled to attend the same event throughout the week.

They have to manage power lines with every house fire, Langford said.

“We get (this training) when we’re recruits, but as you go along things change,” he said. “It’s good to get a refresher.”

Residents often call the fire department first when they see a downed or obstructed wire, he said. But he advises calling the PUD instead. Journeymen linemen train for more than three years to handle power lines.

“It’s not something to mess with,” Morgan said.

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

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