Squirrel causes fire at substation, leaving thousands without power

A squirrel caused a fire at a DP&L substation Monday morning, knocking out power for more than 20,000 customers in Kettering and Oakwood at the peak of the outage.

A squirrel caused a fire at a DP&L substation Monday, knocking out power for more than 20,000 commercial and residential customers in Kettering and Oakwood at the peak of the outage.

The fire was first reported at the substation on East Dorothy Lane west of Wilmington Pike in Kettering around 7:40 a.m. Monday, by 11:15 a.m. power was restored to customers.

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Firefighters reported the fire was under control around 8:30 a.m. and said they allowed the fire to burn itself out.

DP&L spokeswoman Mary Ann Kabel addressed the power outage late Monday morning at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center, during a press conference to announce a financial gift to the non-profit to help those in need as cold weather sets in.

“We found out that the issue was a squirrel that came into a substation,” she confirmed to reporters.

She said the company has safeguards in place and plans for animals that attempt to do what the squirrel accomplished.

“We put in protection and we account for potential animals,” Kabel said. “But just like your home, they tend to find ways in to homes and substations, and that was the case this morning. The squirrel tripped one of our switching gears, which caused a fire.”

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She said the fire took down power to around 10,000 customers, but for safety precautions, power was cut off to an additional 10,000 or so customers.

“We had to take down another 10,000 to mitigate the situation and cooperate with the fire department to resolve the fire at hand,” Kabel explained. “The customers who were out where primarily in Kettering with a little bit of Oakwood.”

More than a dozen DP&L trucks were on scene to investigate the substation fire when it started and to make repairs shortly after the fire was brought under control.

Oakwood and Kettering schools decided to keep classes as scheduled for the day, despite the outages in parts of both cities.

As power was restored to many customers shortly after 10:30 a.m., the only school without power was Orchard Park Elementary, which is just a few hundred yards down the street from the substation where the fire broke out, according to Kettering schools spokeswoman Kari Basson.

Power had returned to Van Buren Middle School, Fairmont High School and Oakview Elementary by 10:30 a.m. Power was restored to Beavertown Elementary and the district’s central offices and bus garage before 9 a.m.

Basson said the district’s food and nutrition department served cold lunches to students at Fairmont and Van Buren because of how late the power was restored. Orchard Park Elementary planned to order pizza for students.

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