Power lines severed, house smolders
April 14, 2002
Severed power lines led to a power surge and a number of small electrical fires in a house at 217 Winters Street on Carson City’s west side at about 4 p.m. Saturday. No one was home and there were no injuries in this accident, which occurred after neighbors felled some large branches from some elm trees in their back yard.
“One branch hit a power cable,” said the neighbor, who would not identify himself. “The wind blew a little too hard and we weren’t prepared for it. I saw smoke coming out of the house, so I called the fire department.”
Several engines from Warren Fire Department responded to the call.
The home is owned by Greg and Nancy Nixon, who are on vacation, according to Dan Shirey, Carson City Fire Dept. Batallion Chief.
“It was an unusual situation. The whole house was lit up and buzzing,” he said. “The electricity was coming into the house at a higher voltage and you could see the wires smoking. If this had happened in the middle of the night, there would have been enough heat buildup to start a serious fire.”
The branch severed the neutral wire that regulates the voltage and the supply of power to the house started to climb. When the voltage spiked, it heated up the electrical panel to the home, burning it up, according to Karen Foster, spokeswoman for Sierra Pacific Power Company.
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“If there is no neutral line, the power will look for another route,” said Sierra Pacific serviceman Max Baxter.
A number of small fires had started in the attic insulation where the wires were affected, but power was cut off by Sierra Pacific officials, according to Shirey.
There was no serious structural damage, but the extent of damage to the house’s electrical system had not been determined, according to Shirey.
The gas supply was turned off as a precaution and officials were making attempts to preserve the family’s freezer full of meat in addition to their tropical fish.
“If people’s equipment or property is damaged by a power line accident, we have a claims department to deal with it,” said Carl Wahlquist, spokesman for Sierra Pacific Power Company. “We will try to assess the damage and work with the customer, to determine if Sierra Pacific is responsible for the accident.”
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