published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Cause of sub-station fire under investigation
By BARRY FOSTER
LAKE PLACID -- It took 14 hours, but power was restored Monday afternoon following an explosion and fire at a Glades Electric sub-station in the Highlands Park Estates.
Glades Electric spokesman Paul McGehee said crews had to bring a mobile sub-station transformer from Moore Haven to restore service to the nearly 1,300 customers that lost power about 12:45 Monday morning when the unit there went down and suffered what has been estimated at at least a half-million dollars worth of damage.
"This is a wonderful unit. It can be used pretty much as a standard sized sub-station," he said. "It's basically the same kind of unit as the one we had, mounted on a mobile base."
The mobile sub-station can perform the same function as the stationary unit, taking power off of transmission lines. It then converts the electricity from transmission voltage to distribution voltage and carries it over the lines to homes and businesses where it is transformed down again to the standard 220 volts for residential and commercial use.
"It usually comes in around 14,400 volts before it is taken down to distribution voltage," McGehee said
In the past, the mobile unit has been pressed into service to provide electricity during natural disasters or as a surrogate while Glades Electric crews did maintenance work so members would continue to have uninterrupted service.
Re-establishing service was a bit of a time-consuming effort for the workers due to the condition of the site.
"There was infrastructure damage due to the explosion and fire that we had out there," McGehee said. "It wasn't just a matter of rolling in a mobile transformer and hooking it up."
Reportedly a number of breakers, regulators and switch gear were completely destroyed. Those had to be taken out and new equipment installed before it could be put back on line.
The mobile unit will remain in place for several months until the former unit can be repaired or replaced. The damaged unit now has been sent for testing. Diagnosticians now will try and determine how badly the former sub-station was damaged in the incident.
Highlands County Sheriff's deputies and volunteers from the Highlands Park Estates and Lake Placid fire departments were called to the sub-station early Monday morning.
When the first deputy arrived just before 1 a.m., a white male about 45-50 years of age, driving a maroon colored Ford Crown Victoria with a spotlight attached to the vehicle, yelled out his window to the deputy "they shot it again," according to a press release from the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.
The deputy also noted that he passed about 20 vehicles leaving the area as he was driving to it. It is believed there may have been a party in the area.
When the deputy arrived, he found a large fire inside the compound. After the fire was put out by the fire department, Glades Electric employees discovered what they believed to be bullet holes in their equipment.
However, according to Highlands County Sheriff's Office Detective Sgt. Chris Smith, after an examination during daylight hours Glades Electric couldn't determine the exact cause and manner of the fire and damage.
The incident remains under investigation by the Highlands County Sheriff's office and the State Fire Marshal's office.
Although there is a pending investigation, Glades Electric officials say they "strongly suspect" vandalism and have offered a $5,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible if there was intentional damage involved. Those with any information on the case are asked to call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-226-TIPS
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