David Rogers: A rising concern with helium balloons?

David Rogers

Sunday’s car fire in Topsfield dramatically illustrated the danger tree branches pose to power lines. Topsfield fire officials say it was a tree branch that touched off an electrical fire that destroyed two cars and disrupted electrical service to thousands of customers for part of the day.

Less well known, at least around here, is the danger posed by foil-lined or Mylar helium balloons to power lines. But in California, the balloons have caught the attention of state Sen. Jack Scott who recently filed a bill that would ban Mylar helium balloons in California. In a Wall Street Journal story this week, Scott said the balloons caused a potential hazard to power lines and that they weren’t worth the risk they posed. As many as 800 incidents involving power wires and balloons were reported last year, according to a California utility company.

The proposed bill spurred the creation of a pro-balloon group who highlighted their views by creating a helium balloon effigy of Sen. Scott. The balloons were stomped on by protestors and children and eventually, the effigy floated away, in many different parts.

Mylar helium balloons have caused serious incidents closer to home too.

In Central Falls, R.I., last week, a Mylar balloon caused a power wire to fall to the ground shutting off service to thousands in the community of almost 19,000 people. Earlier this year, Mylar balloons from a Providence, R.I., festival escaped and landed in a nearby substation, again knocking out power to thousands, according to National Grid spokesman David Graves.