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PG&E Transformer Melts, Leads to Morning Power Outage

About 50 PG&E customers were affected.

Power was fully restored in Linda Mar late this morning after a transformer at a PG&E substation failed and caught fire.

At 6:51a.m. this morning, residents woke up to billowing smoke and a stringent burning electrical smell emitting from the substation, located at the base of Valencia Way just off Crespi.

Carol Berman, a Valencia Way resident, said smoke was filling her house.

"I woke up and thought it may be my house on fire so I gathered up these two (referring to her black and yellow labs) and headed out the door,” she said.

Berman lives directly next door to the power substation.

By seven o’clock there were four fire companies and officers on scene. As a safety precaution, they closed off Valencia Way between Granada Drive and La Mirada Drive. Because of the high voltage coursing through the substation, fire crews didn’t go into the substation and waited for PG&E representatives to arrive to mitigate the incident. They came an alarming half hour later.

“It was a little scary until PG&E got there," said Barbara Huselbus, a lifetime Pacifica resident. With the memory of the San Bruno fire still lingering, the scene was a bit tense for a while.

PG&E crews quickly assessed the situation. One of the two main transformers located inside the substation control room had failed.

“The transformers are encapsulated in resin and when they fail, they heat up and the resin melts, putting off a fowl smell,” said a PG&E representative.

The failure didn’t trip an immediate power outage. PG&E and the fire department played it safe and shut down the substation, causing the outage for about 50 customers, until they could shift power and repair the damaged transformer, said Matt Lucett with North County Fire. Power was restored at about 11a.m.

On Sept. 29, PG&E reported that the power outage actually impacted about 4,422 customers in Pacifica and surrounding areas.

There was no definitive word yet on what triggered the problem but power outages were felt as far away as Montara.

The public was not in any danger, said a PG&E representative, but a PG&E worker told a firefighter it could have been a lot worse.

Marcia Settel September 27, 2011 at 05:54 AM
When I called to report it from Pedro Point at 7:15 or so, I was also told that I was the first person to report it.
CQ September 27, 2011 at 04:27 PM
I was told the same both by the automated system and a live person....Is PG&E trying to minimize all issues and manage P.R. right from the beginning? Maybe Pacifica Patch can make a media inquiry and get an actual count from PG&E of how many customers where actually affected since Pedro Point is now known to be included in the outage?
Thomas H. Clifford September 28, 2011 at 02:40 PM
I live on Sheila Lane and we were without power for about an hour. Logic dictates that if you lose one of two transformers in a substation a large number of households will be effected. 50 households only makes sense if it was a transformer on the top of a pole.
CQ September 28, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Camden, Was Pacifica Patch successful in making a media inquiry to PG&E and getting their accurate count of customers affected and publishing it here? I keep getting ongoing automated calls (800-472-6147) from PG&E asking to do a survey about their "service response" during this power outage but when I return their call to another automated system it says my home phone number doesn't match their records and won't let me complete their response survey! Some poor communications...
Camden Swita September 29, 2011 at 09:33 PM
Heard back today! PG&E reports that the outage actually affected 4,422 customers. Big, big difference between the FD's number and PG&E's, but there you have it.

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