Fire Resistance of Wooden Utility Poles

ASTM International's Fire Committee (E05) is developing a standard that will test fire resistance of wooden utility poles. Utility companies and coating and treatment manufacturers will use the standard to test new products that could protect the poles.

"Utility poles are frequently exposed to high intensity wildfires throughout the world," says ASTM member Brent M. Pickett, Ph.D. "If these poles are not properly protected, the fire could destroy them and wipe out utility services."

Pickett explains that when a wood pole is exposed to fire, the pole degrades from the outside in. Unless a pole is coated, covered, or treated, a fire can cause the pole to fall and cause outages. Notably, this can happen even after a fire has abated due to the fact that winds can cause wooden poles to smolder.

The committee encourages all interested parties, particularly representatives of utility companies, to join in developing the standard (WK52535, Test Method for Fire Resistance of Wood Utility Poles).

Pickett, the technical director of Western Fire Center Inc., notes that officials in Australia initially saw the need for to develop a standard that would include radiative and convective heating coupled with wind to simulate a wildfire.

The subcommittee developing the standard is seeking data on how much deterioration is possible and acceptable before a utility pole is deemed unusable.

ASTM welcomes participation in the development of its standards. Become a member at

CONTACT Technical Information: Brent M. Pickett, Ph.D., Western Fire Center Inc. • Kelso, Wash. • tel +1.360.423.1400 | ASTM Staff: Thomas O'Toole • tel +1.610.832.9739 | Upcoming Meeting: June 27-30, 2016 • June Committee Week • Chicago, Ill.

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