Tractor-trailer driver charged with two traffic offenses after truck snags wire
By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- A tractor-trailer driver was charged with two traffic offenses after his truck snagged a utility wire on Tuesday, causing lines and poles to snap and sparking a small house fire.
David Ferrell, 50, of North Carolina, was trying to turn the tractor-trailer right onto South Funk Street from East King Street shortly before noon, Strasburg police officer Matt Moats said. The truck's wheel caught the guide wire of a telephone pole, he said.
"Pulling that one guide wire caused the pole to break, which caused several other poles to experience tension and that caused the other poles to break as well," Moats said.
The top of one utility pole snapped and landed on George Andrew's house on the corner of King Street. Wires caught fire on his porch.
He stood and watched across the street with neighbors as his porch smoldered.
Firefighters could not tackle the fire until the power lines were shut off. Poles on both sides of King Street were snapped, and the top half of another tilted at a precarious angle.
"The power flickered off and on, and then we got up to see, and my husband looked out the window and saw the pole laying in the road," said Dawn Cummings, who lives across the street from Andrews.
She said they saw smoke coming off of Andrews' house.
"We were hollering for George to come outside," Cummings said. "It started off as a small little smolder, like a cigarette smoke-like thing."
Andrews said he'd been in his kitchen reading the Bible.
"I heard it," he said. "It slammed, bam, bang. Then I looked out, and there's the pole."
Andrews' nephew, James Huff, lives nearby and hurried to the home.
"I just know the electric went out," he said. "[I thought], 'Oh, my gosh, it's my uncle's house.' My grandma said get him out of there."
Huff said Andrews was still in the house, and he told a police officer.
At one point, small flames flared on the porch, but firefighters quickly moved to extinguish them.
"We had to wait a few minutes for the power company to secure the power before we could make entry," Assistant Strasburg Fire Chief Doug Miller said.
Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue Operations Chief Tim Williams said the line carried 12,000 volts.
"That's quite a lot, he said. "They had to secure the power before they could actually attack the fire because water is conductive."
Ferrell had to stay in his cab for quite some time because of the danger of a line on the tractor.
Miller said he thought Andrews would be able to return to the home. Andrews said he's lived there for 20 years.
"It got inside a little bit," Miller said. "It went up into the attic. Electricity just went around the outside of the house. It burnt some of the roof rafters."
About 1,400 customers were left without power, according to an email from Shenandoah Valley Electric Co-operative spokesman Mike Aulgur. He expected all customers to have service restored by midnight Tuesday.
Aulgur said three poles -- each with three circuits -- had to be replaced by crews.