HATFIELD, Pa. - An underground fire near PECO gas meters that affected residents of five townhomes on Vernon Court in Hatfield Township has left investigators puzzled, namely because neither PECO nor PPL Electric Utilities could tell them how or why the fire started Wednesday evening.
Hatfield Township Fire Marshal Mike Waldron is now left with an uneasy feeling.
"It makes me nervous. I want more closure as to what happened so we can prevent it from happening again," Waldron said. "It's their equipment, so you look to them for answers. It's not all warm and fuzzy."
Waldron said it was not the first time seeing such a fire, but there is usually an answer for it.
"This is the first time we've seen something like this and nobody could tell me what happened," he said.
At 5 p.m. Wednesday, Hatfield Volunteer Fire Co. received a 911 report of a fire near a gas meter outside a house on the 100 block of Vernon Court, he said.
When fire officials and Hatfield Township Police arrived, there was a fire in three different spots, coming out of the ground and burning through mulch, Waldron said.
Hatfield Fire Co., assisted by Towamencin Volunteer Fire Co. and Souderton-Perseverance Fire Co., shut the gas off to all the properties. PECO pulled all PPL electric meters off properties as well, Waldron said.
Two residents were home out of all the townhomes and had left the area, he said.
"Because gas meters were involved, we contacted PECO. They came out and confirmed a gas leak in front of one of the houses, underground," he said. "We contacted PPL because it is the electric provider in that neighborhood."
He said PECO did not know what caused the leak or what ignited the fire.
"Their assumption is an electrical fault underground, possibly with PPL wiring," Waldron said.
He said PECO repaired the gas leak.
"PPL confirmed that they checked everything they normally checked and all wires were tested, and they could not find any problem with their wires," Waldron said.
Residents were without electricity and gas for more than five hours. All personnel, including PECO and PPL, left the scene by 10:30 p.m. All utiltiies were restored with no indiciation of problems.
There were no injuries and no fire damage to homes.
"There was damage to three homes because firefighters had to do a forced entry to make sure no fire was burning inside the homes and that no one was home," Waldron said. "We had high natural gas readings in all houses, so we had to ventilate them so there was no explosive situation."
Waldron said PECO and Hatfield Fire Co. continuously monitored gas levels through the duration of the incident.
"I hate leaving incidents like this up in the air," Waldron said. "You count on the utilities to provide you information."