On the night of Sunday, Dec. 16 winds were howling as a storm pulled away from the area. A LIPA utility pole with three transformers atop were no match for the damaging winds and the pole came crashing to the ground blocking Columbus Parkway.
At 11:47 p.m., Nassau County FIRECOM alerted Mineola firefighters for a transformer fire and Chief of Department Scott Holliday arrived first on the scene. The Chief found that the transformers had broken open and the cooling oil contained therein was spreading across the ground. The wires feeding the pole were still energized and actively arcing making the scene very dangerous. The electrical arcing had also ignited the oil and the fire was rapidly increasing in intensity.
Chief Holliday immediately requested a forthwith response from LIPA. Nassau County police officers assisted by shutting down Jericho Turnpike and Columbus Parkway. The chief directed responding apparatus to stage on Jericho Turnpike on the north end of the fire and also assigned engine 167 to standby south of the fire on Columbus Parkway. Responding firefighters stretched a protection hose-line to prevent spread of the fire to adjacent buildings. Due to the energized electrical equipment the main body of fire could not be attacked until power was confirmed to be off.
The chief also recognized the danger posed by the spreading transformer oil. Firefighters established dikes around the adjacent storm drains to prevent further contamination. The Nassau County Fire Marshal Hazardous Materials Response Team was requested to respond to the scene. During the course of the alarm several calls were received for smoke in the area and a reported building fire at Roslyn Road and Jericho Turnpike. Mineola firefighters investigated these calls and they were found to be related to the transformer fire. LIPA arrived on scene and removed the power.
In an effort to avoid further contamination of the storm drains, Mineola firefighters advanced on the fire using dry chemical extinguishers rather than water. Nassau County Haz-Mat arrived on scene and confirmed that the coolant oil did not contain harmful PCBs. The scene was turned over to HAZ-MAT and LIPA for clean up at 1:30 a.m.
This was the second time in December that the Nassau County Fire Marshal Hazardous Materials Response Team assisted Mineola firefighters. On Dec. 11, at 10:52 a.m., the Mineola FD was alerted for an oil spill on Nassau Boulevard. Arriving firefighters found several gallons of home heating oil had been pumped into the basement of a residence. The resident had recently converted from an oil heating system to a gas heating system. The oil tank had been removed however the oil fill valve on the exterior of the home had been left in place. The oil delivery company arrived and began making an automatic delivery. The driver quickly recognized the situation and only a few gallons of oil were pumped into the basement. The HAZ-MAT team arrived on scene to initiate an investigation into the circumstances and coordinate the environmental clean up.