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Live Wire Sparks Fire Near Where Darien Kids Play

When electricity was restored on Knollwood Road, a live, downed wire sparked a fire as kids were playing nearby; no one was hurt, but a parents say they're concerned that wires are being re-electrified without enough caution.

Officials have warned about it in general, and now Kim Swift of Leroy Avenue says her own daughter saw it firsthand:

Kids should not be out playing where there are downed wires—like the one that set off some flames on Knollwood Road at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday near where half a dozen kids were playing.

Swift said she let her daughter go out to a friend's house on Knollwood Lane on Thursday. At some point late in the afternoon, power was restored to wires on that street, but a power line was down. It, too, became re-electrified and started smoking.

The kids retreated as the wire started a fire. A parent on Knollwood Lane, who asked that her name not be used in this article, confirmed the details and added a few more. The Knollwood woman gave this account:

The Knollwood family's children and some friends, all about 12 years old, and some neighborhood children who were about 8 or 10 years old, were playing on the street or nearby.

Her daughter's friends were on scooters, riding up and down the street when they saw smoke coming from a downed wire on a lawn near where a CL&P crew had been working. The crew had left, and logs and branches from a downed tree were nearby.

Electricity had just gone back on in the Knollwood Lane house when her daughter, a few minutes later, rushed in to say, "Mommie, one of the wires is on fire."

"The kids were probably 50 feet away," when they saw the fire, she said.

Someone called 911 and firefighters came to the scene in an engine. Neighborhood children were kept in their homes, but adults came out to watch. The fire was small—about a yard from end to end and about two feet tall, she said.

A firefigher "was yelling at us—he said 'Get in your house!'"

Power was shut off again, and Knollwood Lane still did not have power again as of late Friday morning.

"The town should be alerted," the Knollwood mother said. "Just keep away."

First-hand lessons

The Knollwood Lane woman said, "I drilled into my kids' heads: 'Do not go near the power lines.' [...] Now that I think about it, my kids should not be playing on the street where CL&P is working."

Swift says she's keeping her own 12-year-old indoors, or at least away from any downed wires.

Parents have been warned

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson has repeatedly asked parents to keep their children away from live wires, and indoors if possible. A playground at Weed Beach has been cleaned up so younger children have a safer place to play.

On Wednesday, Stevenson said in her fourth update on recovery efforts: "New dangers now exist—as the power is restored, the chance for fire from exposed wires is extremely high."

In Thursday's fifth update, she said: " Please continue to be vigilant regarding your personal safety and the safety of your children."

In an earlier interview, she was more specific in asking that parents be careful in allowing children outside, particularly on the streets where live wires might be located.

In her fifth update, Stevenson also said that even with 12 crews working on downed trees where there are wires, and additional crews working on downed trees where there are no wires, recovery of electrical power and street service will take time.

Nothing specific was said about keeping downed electricity wires from getting re-electrified.

With Cablevision lines down, some town residents are not receiving the reverse-911 "Code Red" robocall messages from the town. Patch and other news organizations in town are publishing them as they come in.

Not the only time

This isn't the only time Swift has had problems with re-electrified lines. A transformer near the end of her driveway on Leroy Avenue had tree branches against it and started smoking when power was briefly restored, she said.

CL&P didn't seem to check the transformer before restoring power to it, she said. Power to the transformer was later turned off.

Neighborhood attitudes about safety and power lines

Swift said some in her neighborhood were ribbing her when she put a sign up at her mailbox warning about downed wires on her own driveway.

There are downed wires on Swift's driveway, she said. Her brother works for a utility company and had suggested to her that she put a sign on her mailbox warning people to stay clear of those lines. Swift said she's gotten some ribbing from neighbors about the sign, but she's keeping it up.

Questions for officials

The parent on Knollwood Lane said she's wondering, "Was CL&P supposed to move that downed wire? Did they just make a big blunder because they're pressured to get the power back or because they're exhausted, or is it just a big error?"

Swift says her main concerns are two: That other parents need to make sure their kids stay well away from any downed wires and that authorities check for downed wires before re-electrifying a power line.

"This is serious," Swift said. "If one person in Darien died, that would be it. [...] Just the potential for disaster was really quite high."

Swift said she's called police and the First Selectman's Office, asking whether or not lines are being checked for downed wires before they're being electrified, but "I have not gotten answers from anybody."

Debra Ritchie November 02, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I know this is a difficult time and we are all experiencing cabin fever. But we must keep our children safe. In neighborhoods with downed wires, chose indoor activities until all repairs are completed. Any wire can be electrified even in neighborhoods experiencing power loss.
Maxine St James November 02, 2012 at 10:40 PM
We never got first selectman safety messages via trlephone reverse 911bc our phone lines are out! Now I heatr you can have them sent to your cell phone. Maybe the darien times can publish how to get these messages from the town for those who don't know. People might assume that dead power lines on the ground will remain dead. You wouldn't think CL&P would leave potential hazards lying. about.

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