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PECO Works To Restore Power To Thousands After Substation Fire

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — PECO was hoping to have everyone back on line Wednesday afternoon, a day after a fire tore through its substation in the Nicetown-Tioga section of Philadelphia. 

About 36,000 customers were without power at the peak of the substation fire Tuesday afternoon at Fox and Westmoreland Streets. But, the remaining 3,000 customers who live closest to the substation could not be switched to other circuits. PECO’s Ben Armstrong says they had to wait until truck-sized external power generators were brought to the scene to restore service.

“The 33,000 customers that we were able to restore so far we were able to perform what we call street switching,” Armstrong said, “which is utilizing devices across our system to reroute the flow of electricity to restore many of those customers.”

One nearby resident, Taisha, had a close call.

“I was sleeping and I had a candle burning for some light in the bathroom and it caught fire,” she said, “so it wasn’t too bad. We were able to get the fire out.”

PECO needed to take more than two hours to de-energize the facility to make it safe before firefighters entered, according to Armstrong.

“We wanted to make absolutely sure that we weren’t sending these firefighters into any danger,” he said.

They used chemical foam and fire suppression powder at the scene. Flames were contained to the substation. But thick, black smoke blanketed the neighborhood at the height of the fire.

Officials still don’t know what started it, nor how long it will take to fix the damaged equipment.

No one was hurt. There were no evacuations.

The nearby Philadelphia High School for Girls and EW Rhodes Middle School lost power and were closed Wednesday; all after-school activities were canceled, as well.

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