In case of fire, be prepared to save your own house
The Dec. 29 article on an electrical fire in the Palisades area [“D.C. family says Pepco to blame in house fire”] highlighted how the utility responded to a homeowner’s report of a hazard. It bears disturbing resemblances to an experience in our Chevy Chase neighborhood months ago.
In our case, after an intense thunderstorm, a telephone line caught fire. Firefighters arrived promptly, but they were not authorized to put out a fire on a utility line. Neighbors watched as the fire burned through the line’s insulation and shot sparks toward trees. Calls to Verizon went into a queue — with waits of 30 minutes or longer. The resident of the house closest to the burning cable was told that Verizon would send someone to inspect the line later that day.
It turned out to be three days before the company dispatched the first crew to the area.
Before leaving, one of the firefighters said the phone-line fire would probably burn itself out. When it didn’t, the firetrucks were called back, but they still couldn’t spray the line, though the fire had burned for an hour. Pepco, when contacted by the homeowner closest to the fire, said that as long as power was not interrupted, the problem lay elsewhere. (Phone lines aren’t ordinarily flammable, and we learned later that a short in a power line up the street was the probable cause.)
Our fire was put out, but only because the homeowner used his hose on the phone line, a risk no one should take in the case of a power line. Sadly, the recent Palisades fire, which damaged a family’s home, shows what happens when alarming information does not produce an emergency response from a utility.
Mary Eccles, Chevy Chase