Utah Power & Light has chopped down seven trees surrounding a substation where a Salt Lake County boy was critically burned after he climbed into the fenced compound and received a powerful shock from a live wire.
The utility cut the five elms and two cedars after Derrick Cole, 8, climbed into the Meadowbrook substation compound at 1175 Atherton Drive (1075 West) via overhanging branches Oct. 5. Once inside, he climbed the transformer tower, slipped and fell onto a wire carrying 12,740 volts. The surge of electricity set the boy on fire.Rescued by a nearby resident who saw the accident, Derrick was taken to the University of Utah Burn Center, where a spokeswoman said Wednesday he remains in critical condition.
But instead of being relieved that the trees are down - and, presumably, that children will no longer be able to play in so dangerous a place - some nearby neighbors are angry.
For one thing, UP&L didn't have permission to cut the trees, said Mountain View Park Homeowners Association chairwoman June Boyer. Further, she says, though Derrick climbed from a tree into the compound, neighbors have been telling the utility for at least a year that children have been playing in the compound but that their favorite mode of entry wasn't the trees.
"The trees are not the problem. The trees are not where the kids are going over. They're going over the gate," she said. "Now they (UP&L) have made it worse because the trees used to hide the substation. When children see something like that, it's a temptation."
Boyer said she and her neighbors were incensed by newspaper and television reports that they had seen children playing in the compound but had not reported the incidents to UP&L.
"We have reported it to them. In fact, we called the very day" the accident happened. UP&L has in the past sent out representatives to look at the substation and talk to the neighbors, she said.
However, UP&L spokesman John Serfustini said Wednesday that the utility has no record of any contact with the neighbors, and that no one recalls going to talk with the homeowners association.
According to homeowner association records, on Sept. 13, 1989, a man identifying himself as a regional supervisor called the association regarding numerous calls they had received about children playing in the substation and asked for permission to cut down the trees.
The association board met Sept. 18 to discuss UP&L's request, then called the utility Sept. 29 to deny permission and to explain that the children were getting into the compound not by climbing trees but by going through the gate.
On July 13 of this year, Boyer said, she called UP&L to ask that they turn on the substation floodlights to discourage children from playing in the compound. She said her request was turned down. After that, she said, the homeowners association installed their own floodlights in their recreational vehicle parking area.