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Weeding out Vancouver’s danger poles

February 21, 2015

A wooden utility pole, inspected and found wanting.

After a winter’s rest, more of Vancouver’s wooden utility poles are being subjected to close scrutiny.

Inspectors are looking for structural damage to the poles or any of their fittings. Tests are conducted superficially and into the core of each pole (leaving telltale plastic-lined drill holes). To test below ground a chunk is cut out of the asphalt at the base of each pole.


This pole, with an asphalt cut-out and a new proof-of-inspection disc, passed the test.

Poles that pass this latest test are simply getting nailed with a little galvanized proof-of-inspection disc, which is embossed with the name of the company that performed the inspection: “Precision Pole Inspections” and the year: “2014”, even though the tests are being carried out in 2015.

No gold watch for retiring wooden utility poles


This wooden utility pole failed the test and has been marked for destruction.

When a “danger pole” is identified, the inspector cuts a horizontal swath off the pole, on the side facing into the alley. The swath is always about six to eight inches wide, at head height and very shallow, just enough to somewhat flatten the curve of the pole. The cut area is then liberally painted red and the proof-of-inspection disc is nailed dead centre.

In previous years I have seen poles marked like this but with blue paint.

It is an assumption on my part that all the wooden utility poles lining Vancouver’s back alleys are owned by either B.C. Hydro, the provincial electrical utility, or Telus, the provincial telecom utility.

However, Friday afternoon I watched a marked city of Vancouver car drive through a block of alley between 10th and 11th Avenue and just on the east side of South Granville Street. The woman in the car stopped briefly beside each freshly-inspected utility pole and got out of her car to get a closer look at the one pole emblazoned with a red splash of paint.

For that pole — the danger pole — the final step in the inspection process will be a big white bucket truck bearing a fresh wooden utility pole and towing a two-wheeled wood chipper.

A pole bearing three inspection disks from 2006 to this year.

A pole bearing three inspection disks from 2006 to 2014.

And at the base of that pole, the little "access hatch" cut into the asphalt.

And the base of that pole, where a reusable “access hatch” has been cut into the asphalt.




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