Posted at: 09/27/2012 11:44 PM
| Updated at: 09/28/2012 12:22 AM
By: Dan Levy
TROY - All of a sudden, there have now been three fairly significant underground fires in the Capital Region in the last eight days.
The most recent occurred in Troy late Thursday afternoon and even though National Grid is saying that each of the three incidents is isolated from the others, people who have been affected are saying it's a pretty odd coincidence.
It was 4:45 Thursday afternoon, on Fifth Avenue, between Federal and Jacob streets, in Troy, when a loud noise outside his home got Bill Bruce's attention.
"I was lying on the couch watching TV and all of a sudden ba-boom!" Bruce exclaimed.
At first he had no idea what it could be, but then remembered his brand new rental car was parked in front of his house, so he ran outside.
"I'm thinking, 'Oh, no!' I see smoke and I (think that I will) find a man hole cover through the windshield or something but it didn't," Bruce recalled. "It (the man hole cover) went the other way, but it made a hell of a racket."
Troy firefighters responded to that racket almost immediately, since their fire house is just around the corner on Sixth Avenue.
Fifth Avenue was shut down, three buildings were evacuated fearing carbon monoxide could back up into the basements, and the underlying cause was quickly diagnosed.
"It was an arc," said Troy Battalion Chief Ray Davis. "It was a short of some nature underground. It's a 34,500 volt (line) lying underground."
Davis says it was a dangerous situation since man hole covers can weight 350 to 400 pounds and it's unusual for them to start "flying around."
If the underground fires and flying man hole covers give you a feeling of deja vu, you're not losing your mind. 3,700 people lost power in Albany Wednesday night after a cable malfunction began emitting smoke underneath Pearl Street.
"It's a minor irritant," said Colin McCoy, a Clinton Avenue resident. "I've never lived anywhere before where I had power go out every week."
Seven days earlier, on Sept. 19, in what National Grid says was an unrelated incident, buildings on both sides of North Pearl Street were evacuated in the middle of the afternoon, after an underground explosion sent man hole covers flying.
"It doesn't matter if they're two separate incidents," said Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, "They're two incidents that could have hurt people."
Back in Troy, Battalion Chief Davis says he's certain what happened on Fifth Avenue was an isolated incident because, "National Grid assures me it's isolated."
Davis says it was lucky no one was walking or driving by at the time. No one was injured in any of the three incidents.
Mayor Jennings says he has a meeting set for Monday with National Grid officials, at which time he says he'll insist on a proactive -- rather than a reactionary -- solution.