Downed power line sparks fire in WPB - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Downed power line sparks fire in WPB

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX)   A leak from an underground natural gas pipe has led the city to close a four-block stretch of Dixie Highway to traffic and has sparked at least one small backyard fire in the area.

The leak occurred around 6:15 p.m. when a power line fell to the ground and hit a manhole cover near Avenida Hermosa, between Belvedere Road and Southern Boulevard, city spokesman Chase Scott said.

It began to spark when it hit the ground, damaging the manhole cover and posing a risk to underground gas lines, Scott said. Bystanders have seen flames sparking out of a draining opening in the sidewalk along Hermosa next to a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

"We've been watching it," Scott said. "Some chunks of concrete have been flying out of the manhole, so it's somewhat of a dangerous situation right now."

The smell of the gas became noticeable around 8:30 p.m. City fire and public utility crews have located the damaged length of pipe and are awaiting the arrival of equipment to fix it, officials said.

The sparks appear to have started a fire in a backyard in the 400 block of El Prado, a residential street south of Hermosa, Scott said. Crews quickly put out the fire, which fire-rescue officials said started in an underground pipe.

"I was in the bedroom watching TV and then I smelled, like, a gas," said Adonis Demorla, who with his wife and three children rents the house on El Prado where the fire started.

"When I went to the kitchen, I saw the fire outside. I told my family, 'Everybody go out.' The lights went off at the same time. It was very scary."

Power has been restored to about 80 businesses and homes that were without electricity for more than three hours after the wire came down. Florida Power & Light Co. said on its website that it started restoring power at about 9:15 p.m. Lights were on at most properties by 9:45 p.m.

The KFC restaurant has been evacuated as a precaution, fire-rescue officials said.

Southbound drivers are being detoured off Dixie Highway between Hampton Road and El Vedado. Northbound drivers are leaving Dixie at Greenwood Drive and returning to it at Albemarle or Avila roads.

  • By Julius Whigham II Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
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