Apr 15, 2022 - News

Power surge causes costly damages in Petworth homes

A transformer

Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

At least two dozen residents in Petworth had their air conditioning units, appliances, or light fixtures blown out after a Pepco electric project sparked a power surge on Wednesday morning.

Driving the news: The costly damages occurred as a Pepco contractor, Intren, was upgrading a transformer on a utility pole near Upshur and 3rd streets NW. A fuse blew and caused a power surge, Pepco told Axios in a statement.

  • At Joe Fiorill’s house, the jolt exploded an upstairs light bulb, sending glass flying down the staircase. Worse, he told Axios' Cuneyt Dil, his central AC system and freezer are broken. Some electrical outlets and lights were still out in parts of his home on Thursday afternoon.

What they’re saying: “This is an unfortunate incident, and a full investigation is being conducted,” Pepco spokesperson Addie Kauzlarich told Axios, adding that the contractor is working with customers directly to evaluate damages.

Arielle Kane realized something was wrong when she returned home and her house was very hot. She discovered her AC was broken and her thermostat was busted, causing her radiators to turn on the heat — with her 4-year-old English bulldog, Hank, inside “just sweltering.”

  • She told Axios that she spent tens of thousands of dollars upgrading her house after moving in last year. Fortunately, she said, a new $5,300 oven that took months to deliver was not yet plugged into an outlet.
  • But some of her neighbors are dealing with broken major appliances at a time when supply chain woes are causing marketplace delays.

State of play: Vans for home repair companies were parked on the street of row houses with porches on Thursday, and a text chain among neighbors was buzzing about broken home goods.

What’s next: Ward 4 Council member Janeese Lewis George's office told impacted residents to file claims with Intren for damages. About 25 households were affected, spokesperson Alex Taliadoros said.

  • The D.C. Public Service Commission, which can act as a mediator between customers and utility companies, is also aiding residents.
  • Residents are worried about how long reimbursements will take from the subcontractor’s insurer.

“Intren, so far at least, seems like they’re going to take care of this,” Fiorill told Axios. “The fact remains that Pepco really went out of their way to message to us, ‘Oh, it’s our contractor's fault.’ Nobody has shown up today to fix anything.”

  • Intren didn't immediately return Axios' request for comment.

The bottom line: Some residents were spared. One man told Axios nothing in his home was off. A couple of doors down, a woman who preferred to not give her full name said her refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher are fried.


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