ENTERPRISE — Three telephone service pedestals in the rural Enterprise area were burned in just seven days by landowners burning ditches along roadsides, temporarily disrupting service, said a spokesman with Ziply Fiber, the company that owns the pedestals.
“This is an uncommon volume for such a short window of time,” said Ryan Luckin, vice president of marketing and communications in an email Thursday, April 15.
The most recent pedestal destroyed was at the intersection of Hurricane Creek Road and Dorrance Lane between Enterprise and Joseph. It was replaced Monday, April 19, by a Zipley crew from La Grande.
Luckin said telephone customers were quickly returned to service on a temporary basis. He did not know if cellular towers were affected by the damage and thus, was unsure if cell service was disrupted.
He said it depends on the extent of the damage, but he estimated the cost to replace the pedestal would be between $1,800 and $2,000. He said often the responsible landowner is billed for the damage, but that’s evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
“The most important thing is to restore service quickly and keep residents connected to critical means of communication,” Luckin said.
The pedestal is one that provides telephone service to customers in rather remote areas, he said.
Paul Karvoski, emergency services manager for Wallowa County, is apprehensive over the coming potential fire season.
“Get ready for summer,” he told the Enterprise City Council in his dual capacity as city fire chief Monday, April 12.
He also told the council of numerous incidents of intentional burns getting out of control over the previous few days, including five from noon to 5 p.m. the previous Friday.
“Friday afternoon was very stressful,” he told the council.
On Thursday, Karvoski said it appears landowners need to be more careful when conducting controlled burns.
“They’re not doing their due diligence to keep it away from the telephone box,” he said.
Karvoski agreed with Luckin that the recent rash of utility destruction was unusual.
“This is the first time it’s been this bad over the years,” he said.
He also said there is an unusual increase in controlled burns in the county.
“I’ve never seen so many fields burned,” he said, noting that it was a positive action to get rid of flammable weeds, but care needs to be taken.
“If you see one of those things in the ditches, you’d better burn around it,” he said.
In the future, Luckin said, landowners conducting burning should be “cautious and aware of surroundings and nearby utilities.”
He said it goes beyond simply damaging his company’s equipment.
“Damages such as this can take customers out of service and cause them to have no capability to contact 911 for emergency services,” he said. “In addition, many utilities are located together and when power is involved, life-threatening injuries can occur when damages such as this happen.”