"The cable line on top of the utility pole blew up. I saw a flash and then I heard an explosion, as if a bomb went off," says Anthony Soldano, owner of Port Empire Body Shop located at 41 Manorhaven Boulevard. "I didn't see lightning, but a few people say that they thought that lightning struck the pole." The fire, which took place on Aug. 14 at approximately 3:30 p.m., caused power outages that lasted for about two hours for 539 customers of Long Island Power Associates along the Boulevard and its side streets.
Mr. Soldano and his employees then ran to the back of the shop because they feared that the utility pole might fall on them. The live line fell to the concrete in front of his shop. "It started to arc. It was about 10 feet wide and in flames," reports Mr. Soldano.
Then the flames took a route through the seams in the cement and grounded to the metal around the shop's garage door. A fire then started in the office.
The line was so hot it turned a portion of the cement into glass.
"It took 40 minutes for LIPA to shut the line off," adds Mr. Soldano. The Port Washington Fire Department and Nassau County Police arrived on the scene within 10 minutes. About 60 P.W.F.D. firefighters were on the scene and extinguished the flames. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Manorhaven residents from several blocks away were frightened by the explosive blast. Fran Jurkowski of Hickory Road says, "It was louder than an M-80."
Anthony says that he has no idea what the estimate for the damage will be."The sidewalk has to be repaired. Some of the cars waiting to be repaired were burned, and my whole office has to be redone," he notes.
One of the worst effects of the fire, says Mr. Soldano, is that he won't be able to get the smell of smoke out of his office for quite a while.
Adam Stone contributed to this story.