Electrical Substation Blast, 3-Alarm Fire

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 @ 04:09 PM gHale


An explosion and fire at a power substation led to a wide-spread power outage in the Lancaster, PA, area Sunday afternoon.

The electrical power station belonging to Burle Business Park erupted in a fireball that blew through the roof of the 40-by-50-foot brick structure. The fire quickly went to three alarms.

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“There were several police officers in the area and they converged on it pretty quickly,” said City fire Capt. David Longenecker. “They reported multiple buildings on fire. Based on that information and what I was getting from Engine 3 which was on the way, I went to three alarms.”

When crews first arrived, Longenecker said, “the flames had pretty well died down.”

“But there was a huge fireball at first,” Longenecker said. “I saw a picture taken by a police officer. It was amazing. You couldn’t even see the building because of the flame. But it was over pretty quickly.”

Initially, officials thought the power station belonged to PPL, which has a substation in the area. Subsequently, PPL de-energized their station, said PPL spokesman Joe Nixon. This resulted in a power outage that affected as many as 8,000 customers and darkened traffic lights at numerous busy intersections, resulting in traffic snarls.

When it became clear the station belonged to Burle Business Park, PPL re-energized their station. Nixon said one circuit breaker at the PPL station did trip at the time of the fire, but crews were on the scene restoring power to customers.

“We’re doing switching moves to get everybody’s power back on,” he said.

Power ended up restored to the business park and other electricity customers by 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Nixon said.

Initially, firefighters got a warning by PPL crews working nearby not to attempt to enter the substation.

Instead, a PPL Hot Shot Crew, which deals with electrical fires and other potentially dangerous issues, went in to stabilize the scene.

“Once they took care of the electrical issues, it was a pretty simple operation,” Longenecker said.

Firefighters evacuated all of the buildings at the business park for “accountability purposes” as they battled the fire, Longenecker said.

“The site lost power, and we didn’t want collateral issues when we didn’t need them,” Longenecker said. “I said evacuate everything so we can account for everybody.”

The fire remained confined to the substation and did not extend to any of the Burle buildings. Longenecker estimated $25,000 in damages. Most of that, he said, was to the roof.

Longenecker said a large electrical conduit received heavy damage, but he had no estimate of its worth.

Investigators are looking into the cause of the incident.



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