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LIPA Transformer Explodes in Lynbrook

Lynbrook Firefighters Use Foam to Extinguish 

Story and Photos by Steve Grogan, Lynbrook FD

 

Just after midnight on the morning of Friday, January 6, 2005, a worker at the LIPA electrical substation on Hendrickson Avenue, just opposite Dawes Avenue in Lynbrook, threw a switch that was to turn off one of the many transformers on the sight and transfer power to another substation.   The transformer, which had been supplying electrical power to Lynbrook and the western portion of Nassau County, exploded in a ball of flame instead.  For some reason the oil inside the transformer that normally cools the transformer ignited.  LIPA officials estimated that the transformer contained about 1000 gallons of oil. 

 

With the explosion, which raddled homes for nearly a mile and was allegedly heard in surrounding villages, power went out everywhere.  The worker was not injured.  It took just about 15 seconds for LIPA’s backup systems to bring power back up and turn the lights back on.  Just as the lights came back on, Lynbrook Fire Department pagers were activated. 

 

The Department, under the command of First Deputy Chief Keith Festa, responded to the reported explosion and fire.  Chief Festa was first on the scene and broadcast a Signal 10 for a working fire in the substation.   He was quickly joined by the Second Deputy Robert Occhipinti and Third Deputy John O’Reilly.  Chief Festa also found that steel parts from the burning transformer had blown over the substation fencing and landed near the intersection of Hendrickson and Dawes.  The chief ordered that no arriving fire companies take the hydrant at the corner of Hendrickson and Dawes for fear of an additional explosion.

 

Vulcan Company, a foam unit, dropped at the hydrant at Hendrickson and Marshall while Engine Company dropped at the hydrant at Hendrickson and N. Prospect.    Tally-Ho Company took the hydrant on the other side of the substation on Whitehall Street.  Hose Company, also a foam unit, stood-by on Whitehall, later moving to Hendrickson for foam operations.  Truck Company’s bucket took a position on Hendrickson Avenue along with the Floodlight’s Command Post, and the Medical Company.  Additionally, Chief Festa requested a mutual aid and the Valley Stream and East Rockaway Fire Departments sent additional stand-by units to Lynbrook to cover any additional fire and ambulance calls.

 

For two hours, and with additional LIPA personnel now at the scene to assist, Lynbrook firefighters waited for LIPA to turn off the power to the whole substation before firefighters could enter the charged property.  It would have been very dangerous for the firefighters to enter the electrified substation using water and foam.  Finally at 2 AM all the power was shut off and transferred to other substations.

 

Before the extinguishment could begin a portion of the wooden and chain link fencing around the substation had to be removed so that firefighters could enter the property near the burning transformer.  This was done by members of Truck Company.  

 

With the fence down, Vulcan Company began a foam attack on the burning transformer.  Slowly, Vulcan firefighters moved into the yard covering the burning transformer and adjacent ones in snowy white foam while the fire continued to burn from oil leaking from the backside of the transformer.  This attack line was then followed by a second foam line operated by members of Hose Company.  Firefighters were soon nearly up to their knees in the foam.  For nearly forty-five minutes about 350 gallons of foam was poured on the burning transformer by the two lines until the fire was finally extinguished shortly before 3 AM.

 

Lynbrook firefighters were at the scene till after 4:45 AM.  There were no reported injuries to firefighters.  The fire story was quickly picked up by television stations which sent news crews to Lynbrook to cover the story.   Chief Festa was interviewed by the major New York TV stations which reported on the fire.          

WCBS 2 News Video

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02/20/17 06:11

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Revised: 20 Feb 2017 06:11:41 -0500.

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