A transformer blew on Santa Monica Boulevard in Fox Point Tuesday night, leaving nearby residents concerned when they saw flames at the top of the electrical pole.
Finn McFadyen's grandmother lives on Santa Monica Boulevard just two houses down from where the transformer blew. He said they came home to find firefighters and an ambulance outside, with emergency personnel walking through the neighborhood looking for the outage.
"I went in the back yard, and I saw something I thought was a fire," McFadyen said. "Then I saw the neighbor, who was out in her back yard, and she said there's a fire or something in the (power lines)."
McFadyen shared a picture with Patch, showing the blown transformer ablaze and dripping burning oil the pole.
"I don't know if I was scared, but this was something that certainly caught my attention," he said. "They told the neighbor not to get anywhere near it because of wires they thought would drop."
Brian Manthey, spokesman for We Energies, said nine customers were affected by the blowout for about 2½ hours. Manthey said that in such as situation, there's an automatic switch-over so a customer's power wouldn't normally be interrupted, which did function.
But in this case, in order to douse the fire and repair the problem without workers getting fried, the power had to be temporarily disconnected.
McFayden reported that the land-line phones were down as well.
"It's hard to tell, but if the phone service was out, it's possible the wire itself was damaged," Manthey said.
The fire and power outage weren't the only issues with this transformer. Transformers are filled with oil, so, Manthey said, they had to have an environmental crew take a look and clean up any leakage.
Manthey said this was a rare occurrence. There are more than 150,000 transformers in the We Energies system, he said, but failures are uncommon. This one may have been outdated for its demands.
"This one may have been about 20 years old, (and) then it was the right size for that area," he said. "Then over time, more development, more central air, more electronics – it may have been enough to put it over the top on a day where everyone's running everything."
Manthey said that operating in the excessive outdoor temperature likely had nothing directly to do with the transformer fire.
"Most likely it was from the excess demand for power," Manthey said. "It wasn't the heat of the day, but the demand being placed on it."
The demand has been great, though – Tuesday's temperature set a record for the date, and in Wisconsin due to the continued intense heat and dry conditions.
Another 400 along the lakeshore without power
Manthey also said another 400 customers in a long, thin line along Lake Michigan from Fox Point to Oak Creek were without power Tuesday night.
Heavy gusts took an ash tree down across power lines around 5:45 p.m., he said, leaving those people without power until roughly 10 p.m.
While these sort of situations may be interesting to take a look at, Manthey said, it's important to stay a safe distance away.
"(You) may think a cable or phone, or power line is dead, but don't go near it," he said. "Stay at least 25 feet away and let us know. We'll check out any downed wires."
Should you be afraid you may lose power with the high demand of air conditioning, fans and electronics? Manthey says, "No."
"You should always effeciently use electricity, and any energy source for that matter, but we were able to provide for our 1.1 million customers without asking for any conservation efforts," he said. "That really was a situation that happened that's rare."