Area traffic comes to a screeching halt through two major business districts in Lower Merion.
Haverford, Lower Merion Township, PA -- Police units were dispatched to W. Lancaster Avenue at Draycott Lane in Haverford on Tuesday at 4:36 PM for a reported electrical fire that was outside. Dispatch protocols for outside electrical fires call for the Police to investigate and if needed the Fire Department is then sent. The Police arrived at the on the scene in about a minute. They found an electrical pole on fire and asked that both the Fire Department and PECO Energy respond.
The situation intensified when an electrical power line fell and landed on W. Lancaster Ave in front of the well-kept businesses that line the street. At 4:42 PM the Police shut down traffic and closed Lancaster Avenue from Haverford Station Road east to Woodside Avenue in Ardmore
The Merion Fire Company of Ardmore was dispatched to the scene, and shortly after their arrival, the fire grew in size and intensity. By this time almost half of the 50-foot pole was burning, providing a torch-like effect that stripped high voltage cable of their coverings. Another section of the electrified power cables dropped onto an unoccupied parked vehicle on Dreycott Lane. The firefighters had no way of knowing the voltage of the power lines which minimally are 600 volts but could be as much as 13,200 volts. They also had no way to tell if the electrical wires were still charged and conducting electricity, leaving them with no options to extinguish the blaze.
Exelon's PECO Energy was immediately summoned to shut down the power to the area and to confirm the lines were no longer energized. Due to intense temperatures caused by our recent heatwave; PECO would not arrive for over an hour, further vexing the firefighters that wanted to extinguish the high burning blaze.
Officials were concerned about the two apartment buildings located on each corner of Dreycott Lane. Fire Chief Tom Hayden of Ardmore conferred with Officers from the Lower Merion Fire Marshals office. Adding to the anxiety of Fire and Police officials on the scene was an underground transformer positioned very close to the burning pole with its wire and equipment. Chief Hayden ordered firefighters to standby in the basement of the two buildings providing constant monitoring of the structures electrical conditions. Preparing for the worst firefighters dropped a 5-inch water supply line from Ardmore's Engine 25, down Lancaster avenue for about 400 feet and connected it to the fire hydrant two blocks away on the corner of Haverford Station Road.
Firefighters stood-by watching as the fire snaked its way up the pole and ignited other lines and electrical equipment attached to those lines and the pole. As the fire intensified, the power lines started to sag. If one of the wires snapped, it could cause a cascading situation bringing down other lines. There could also be a recoil situation where the broken cable could snap back and take other poles with it down the street.
The fire started coming out of a metal riser, a pipe from underground attached to the pole. The riser held an electrical line that may have been connected to the underground transformer. At one point Fire Officers considered evacuating the two apartments buildings and the businesses that front Lancaster Ave.
In an attempt to have a PECO crew arrive faster, a Police sergeant on the scene directed an officer to drive to a PECO yard on Countyline Road to summon their help.
Once the power line came crashing down into the street, any persons that needed to get their vehicles and leave were literally stranded. They could not move their cars. People leaving work came out of their jobs only to find that they too were going nowhere until PECO arrived and the situation was under control.
Finally at 5:54 PM PECO crews started arriving on the scene. The power was shut off and at 6:43 PM Lancaster Avenue was reopened.
No one was injured in the incident.
The cause of the electrical mishap and fire are yet to be determined.
All police and fire equipment had left the scene shortly after the highway was reopened.
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