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Gas leaks, transformer malfunctions, electrical fires, oh my!

While not exactly a trip through Oz, students living off-campus have recently had to deal with a different type of problem - a recent deluge of fires and power outages.

After incidents on the 3900 block of Delancey Street and at 41st and Walnut streets, among others, gas, electrical and Division of Public Safety officials say they have solved the immediate problems surrounding those incidents.

Still, they could not guarantee that there won't be more electrical issues in the future.

DPS, the Philadelphia Electric and Gas Company and the Philadelphia Gas Works determined yesterday that the recurring fires at both locations were a result of ground cable failures.

Deputy Chief of Fire and Emergency Services Eugene Janda said the underlying problems stem from an aging electrical system in University City that would be extremely difficult and costly to uproot.

"You've got to remember that over time, the infrastructure is getting older and older," he warned.

Both Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush and Janda also credited the recent problems to the many appliances and devices students now use, especially air conditioners working at full capacity and flat screen TVs, which require more ampage than normal sets.

The 3900 block of Delancey Street suffered from fires the past Sunday and Monday nights. On both occasions, residents of that block lost power.

The fire on Monday night caused 309 customers to lose power, PECO spokesman Ben Armstrong said. Most customers regained power by 1:00 a.m., though over 30 were without power until 7 a.m. yesterday morning.

The fires on Delancey came after another pair of fires at the corner of 41st and Walnut streets Those fires, which occurred during the first week of school, spread up an electrical pole on the corner and also caused power outages.

Rush said the fires were all caused by an inadequate load capacity for the ground wires in these areas, an issue PECO is addressing.

To do this, Armstrong said, PECO has to replace sections of cable and restring them in the Delancey Street area. Cables have already been restrung on 41st and Walnut streets.

Once the wires have been repaired, PGW will inspect all of the gas meters and pipe fittings in the area to check that the area is no longer at risk for fires and carbon monoxide leaks.

Many Penn students who lost power on and off campus have expressed their aggravation with the hassle.

"We all had to go outside and just hang out for hours because it was way too hot to sleep inside," said College sophomore and Kappa Sigma brother DJ Lynch, whose house at 3706 Locust Walk also lost power.

Residents of the 3900 block of Delancey can expect more power outages this afternoon while PECO repairs the wires. It is possible that people who do not live on that block will also lose power during the repairs.

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