Powerline fire in Palo Alto sparks evacuation

Cambridge Avenue temporarily shut down

A fire on a transmission pole temporarily shut down Cambridge Avenue in Palo Alto Tuesday morning (Feb. 1) and severed phone and Internet service to some Comcast and AT&T customers into the afternoon.

The blaze began at about 9:50 a.m. in communications equipment and wiring attached to a pole on the north side of the street in front of 400 Cambridge, Palo Alto Fire Department Battalion Chief Chris Woodard said.

Firefighters evacuated employees from 376 to 410 Cambridge as chunks of insulation and other debris dropped to the ground. The fire emitted an acrid, sulfur smell. The buildings and adjacent electrical transformers were not in danger, Woodard said.

Inspectors do not yet know what caused the fire. Woodard said utilities workers checked the lines after firefighters extinguished the flames. AT&T spokesman John Britton said workers expected to complete repair of the lines by Wednesday.

The fire did not effect electricity to any city customers, Mary Coady, communications manager for the city's utilities administration, said. The problem appeared to be in AT&T's lines.

Network technicians from Comcast said customers had service restored quickly. They completed their work by about 1:45 p.m. and AT&T technicians were to begin their work thereafter.

Three fire engines, several police cars and the battalion chief's vehicle were called to the scene. Cambridge was temporarily shut down from El Camino Real to Birch Street.

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Like this comment
Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm

The quality of the work on these poles is atrocious. There are covers on junction boxes in my neighborhood on top of poles that are just left open letting the rain come in. Ropes holding wiring to poles. It looks like a third world country.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2011 at 2:42 pm

It is well past time to get rid of these antiquities. In the long run, it is safer and cheaper to have utilities underground.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident Watcher
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 1, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Let's have a residents Blue Ribbon Committee walk all over Palo Alto and take note of the defects, and bring it back to council.

Palo Alto simply cannot run without our input. Let's have a survey asking if residents like these poles, and what they mean to them. If they're not on fire, we can hug them.

Like this comment
Posted by maditalian
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm

to Resident Watcher in Evergreen Park:

You've got a great sense of humor!

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Underground costs orders of magnitude more than overhead and is no safer.

Like this comment
Posted by reality check
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm

There is nothing in the phone system that can cause a fire. For this paper to report that it appears to have been from att is not only wrong, but ignorant. I know Palo Alto has a hard on for the phone company, and once even tried to take it over. For those that say, "put it al underground". Great, front the costs and it will be done. Otherwise put up or shut up. I don't tell you how to put the nuggets in the box, so don't tell the utility companies how to do their job.

Like this comment
Posted by Get the Fact Correct
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm

I agree with Reality Check. There is nothing wrong with the phone system, I have heard that Palo Alto has it for the phone company but I am starting to see it first hand. The utility company knows what they are doing let them be. Do you even realize how much it cost to put things underground? I heard that the ATT cable caught on fire because COMCAST metal box housing sat up against the cable case of ATT and over heated the case causing it to go on first. Telephone Cable lines dont just get on fire.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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