Petersburg man says wiring sparked house fire

By Diane Walker - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A devastating house fire leaves one local man asking questions and blaming his power company. The Petersburg homeowner has several disputes with the power company. The biggest, deals with 3 phase power lines versus single phase wiring.

The homeowner and power company are in dispute over just about every issue. But, we got some answers and the two sides are talking, for the first time in a year.

"He said you could have been electrocuted in your beds and you were fortunate enough to get out. He said I'm glad I didn't have to carry your bodies out," said homeowner Arlie Lindsey.

Arlie Lindsey remembers the May'08 fire, like it was yesterday. $135,000 in damages. Arlie blames Dominion's 3 phase wiring. He wants to know why this heavy duty wiring was running to his home, instead of single phase wiring customarily used in residences.

"When the electrical box cutoff, that 3 phased commercial line, ran more juice in," Arlie said.

We contacted Dominion Virginia Power and was told that's not true. We also went to the source, the Petersburg Fire Department. It was the fire marshal who raised concerns, for other families in homes with 3 phase wiring. Now the fire department takes a different stance, after meeting with Dominion Power.

"We realize that it's no different, no more than the fact that we don't want our firefighters pulling 3 phase meters," said Petersburg Fire Chief T.C. Hairston.

Homeowners are safe, but the chef still believes electrical dangers are magnified for his crew. So fire fighters operate under a new protocol now.

"If it's an electrical fire, they would wait on Dominion Power to get there to pull the circuit for the whole block," said Chief Hairston.

What's puzzling the Lindsey's, after the fire is that their electrical bills dropped significantly and started listing the name of his church.

"I've written them, I've called them but there's no response," said Arlie.

He believes it's an attempt, to explain away, 38 years of being billed as a commercial customer, instead of residential.

"If I've been paying almost double per month. For these 38 years, I'm figuring that's a whole heap of money," he said.

Here's what Dominion told us: "He was never billed for anything other than residential. The Star of Hope Church started appearing on the bill by accident, an employee mistakenly transposed information from another account that belongs to him."

The house had 3-phase wiring because the previous owner had a wood shop. We also learned that Dominion Virginia Power purges their bills after 18 months, so it has no record of bills from 30 years ago.   Dominion says if Lindsey can produce his old bills, and prove he was billed at a commercial rate it will reimburse him. Most of their belongings were burned in the fire though. Dominion also says the name of the preacher's church, will be removed from his bill.

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