Without BG&E, firefighters refuse to douse tree fire Electrical blaze stymies firefighters.

July 09, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff Joe Nawrozki contributed to this story. rzB

A 25-to-30-foot tree in Diane Jacobs' Green Spring Valley neighborhood burned for hours yesterday, spreading awful fumes of burning wood that brought tears to neighbors' eyes while firefighters stood at arm's length, she said.

Apparently, during Sunday's thunderstorms, the quiet, residential, tree-lined community lost its lights for other reasons, not the fallen tree, said Jacobs, 41, an education research professor at Johns Hopkins University.

At 3 a.m. yesterday, electricity was restored.

But the tree -- 50 feet from Jacobs' house in her neighbor's front yard in the first block of Barstad Court west of Maryvale Preparatory School -- had fallen on live electrical wires during the storm.

At first, the wires were "shorting," and about 1 p.m. yesterday, the tree began to burn, she said.

By 8:30 p.m., "the tip and the base of the tree were on fire," she said, "sending yellow flames" into the air.

"How bad is it? "I can't walk outside any more," she said. "It makes my eyes teary."

Jacobs said the smell of the burning wood filled the entire court, which includes four homes, and to escape, neighbors retreated inside.

While the tree burned, Jacobs and other neighbors called the Lutherville fire station, she said.

The woman who lives in the house where the burning tree is called BG&E at least nine times, Jacobs said.

"They told her to have someone cut it down," Jacobs said. "Anybody who touched the tree would have been dead."

"Our normal procedures, when called by the fire department in a hazardous situation, is to respond as quickly as possible," BG&E spokesman John Metzger said today. "Our normal advice is to tell people to stay away from live wires and not touch the wires."

He said he would investigate .

The fire department responded at least four times during the day, but said it couldn't extinguish the fire because it was "an electrical one," Jacobs said.

The firefighters told the neighbors they couldn't touch the fire because there were 30,000 volts of electricity involved, Jacobs said.

"It's just too bizarre to have a fire truck back and forth all day not doing anything," Jacobs said. "It's weird."

Like the annoyed neighbors, fire officials called BG&E, Jacobs -- said.

But nothing happened, Jacobs said.

"It's a helpless feeling," she said. "It's confusing too. It's like a Catch 22."

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