UPDATE - Electrical Cable in Georgetown Burns Once More; Fireball Flares

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Electrical cable in Georgetown burns once more; fireball flares

Source: The Washington Times Publication date: 2000-06-07

Crews had been making repairs last night to a power cable damaged in a fire Sunday in Georgetown when a previous splice in the 13,000- volt line caught fire, fire officials said.

The workers had gone to re-energize the line at 9:11 p.m. and the fireball occurred 20 minutes later, Potomac Electric Power Co. spokeswoman Nancy Moses said.

Flames shot through a grate on M Street NW just 5 feet from where Sunday's fire caused a manhole to explode. The grate was not dislodged. The flames, which shot 20 feet into the air but lasted only a few seconds, were spotted by a Pepco contractor, Miss Moses said.

Just hours before last night's underground fire, Pepco announced it will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of its underground cable equipment in Georgetown.

On Sunday, an underground cable caught fire, blowing off a manhole cover on M Street NW and cutting off electricity to residents and businesses in the area for nearly 12 hours. Many businesses closed for the day.

Last night's fire did not cause any power outages, Miss Moses said.

Pepco officials said yesterday they will hire outside engineers to help them go over their underground equipment, including M Street.

Officials said historic Georgetown hasn't had its electrical system modernized, unlike other parts of the District. Also, M Street is a major east-west corridor for all utilities, making the underground setup particularly congested there, officials said.

"This top-to-bottom evaluation is going to look into the reliability of our equipment in the Georgetown area," Pepco spokeswoman Makini Street said. "We want all of our customers, residents and businesses to feel confident in our reliability."

Ms. Street said Pepco did not know when the project would begin, how long it would take and who would be affected by it.

However, she said Pepco already had begun looking for engineers to oversee the project.

The project will be made part of the company's reliability enhancement program it began last year. The program includes a multimillion-dollar investment in newly available high-tech equipment that can pinpoint locations of outages, restore power remotely, transmit data between field crews to speed restoration and eliminate busy signals when customers report outages.

Ms. Street said Pepco decided to evaluate its equipment after Sunday's fire, which forced crews to cut electricity to hundreds of residents and about two dozen businesses along M Street and a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Officials said they had to turn off electricity to repair the cables that were damaged in the blaze.

Pepco officials said they have not determined what caused the fire.

They said the fire was not related to a series of underground explosions that blew off three manhole covers Feb. 18 in the same section of town.

The D.C. Council will discuss the explosions in hearings June 15.



-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), June 07, 2000

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