Electric transformer burns up; power box appears to explode
By TIM GRANT
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 25, 2001
CARROLLWOOD -- Hot wires popped like firecrackers and booms were heard throughout the neighborhood as residents in Fairway Village stood on their front lawns and watched the spectacle.
According to the neighbors, on March 14 a TECO transformer caught fire and a power box mounted against one of the homes appeared to explode, shooting flames more than 6 feet high.
"I didn't know what was happening," said Anthony Jusino. "I looked around the house and then outside and saw all the people outside."
Firefighters put out a small fire on a privacy fence where the power box exploded, on Nicklaus Circle. Jusino said sparks from his computer burned a wall inside his house, and destroyed two of his television sets and a DVD surround system.
By late last week, the burned transformer at 11714 Nicklaus Circle had been replaced. While there were no visible signs of damage, residents still have lots of questions about what caused all the excitement, and who will pay for the damage.
TECO spokesman Ross Banister said the company was not aware of damage to Jusino's household items or the transformer explosion. But he did say the power outage that occurred in the neighborhood that day was caused by a damaged underground cable.
Some of the booming noises were caused by an electrical circuit that was dangling from a nearby pole and sparked every time it touched an adjacent wire, Banister said.
"If there was an arcing situation on that pole, there would have been sparks and popping noises," Banister said. "I'm sure the folks who saw that saw something you don't see every day."
Banister said TECO usually does not assume liability for damage to household electrical items when these situations occur.
The fire appears to have been contained in the transformer, said Ray Yeakley, public information officer for Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue, although the incident report does not go in depth on the extent of the fire. He said firefighters allowed TECO to turn off power in that area and the matter was left to the power company.
The initial report was made by Fairway Village resident Laura Dunkin. She was returning home about 8:45 a.m. when she said she saw the green transformer at 11714 Nicklaus Circle shaking, bulging and booming as though it might explode.
She called 911 on her cellular phone and waited for firefighters and TECO technicians to arrive.
"I never saw flames," Dunkin said. "There was smoke and it smelled horrible. Obviously there was a fire (around the transformer) because the grass in front of the box is burnt and the inside of the box was ... completely burnt to a crisp."
Julie Klatka said she saw flames shoot from a power box mounted against one home. They could see the fire over a 6-foot privacy fence.
They were "very tall, very orange flames," she said. "It was raging. The firemen were running toward it and backing up the truck. It was very scary."
- To reach Tim Grant call 226-3471, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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