EPB lineman helps save Red Bank home from fire

photo Red Bank residents Tom and Sandy Hughes meet EPB lineman/troubleshooter Daniel Massengale, right, on Thursday. When the home's "smart meter" detected a problem at the couple's McCahill Road residence, Massengale responded, noticed a fire in a bush caused by arcing wires at the place where the wires attach to the house, then disconnected the electricity, likely saving the house from burning down.

Tom and Sandy Hughes were at church when an EPB lineman responding to a voltage anomaly alert on the company's Smart Grid system discovered and put out a fire at their home.

"We were just shocked when I thought about the whole house could have been burned down when we got home from church," said Sandy Hughes, who said she found out about the fire from her neighbor after returning home in the afternoon.

"We got to church, and I gave a testimony about it that night, and our pastor said, 'I didn't know EPB had angels,'" she added, calling the company's employees "heroes."

On Jan. 26, Ricky Richardson, one of the company's dispatchers, received an alert on the Smart Grid system of an anomaly at the Hughes' home on McCahill Road in Red Bank. He sent lineman Daniel Massengale to investigate.

Massengale said he arrived to see fire in the bushes next to the back door. The wires connecting the home to the power lines came loose over time and arced, which caused the anomaly. He quickly hopped the fence, stomped the fire out and then repaired the problem.

"I was pretty well shocked, because in the beginning, whenever they were putting the smart meters down through here, I would not let them put it on my house," said Tom Hughes. He said he changed his mind and had the meter installed after discussing them with a friend who had retired from EPB and deciding there would be no harm.

The Smart Grid meters are "fully integrated through the fiber-optic network" and are always transmitting signals from customers, letting EPB know if there's proper voltage and service to the meter, company spokesman John Pless said. The meters can detect voltage anomalies and alert EPB if any electrical equipment in the home is malfunctioning or drawing an above-average amount of voltage.

"This is the first case that we're aware of where we were able to detect an anomaly and get a crew out to find it in time to prevent a fire," Pless said.

He said EPB officials were "very thankful for our dispatcher Ricky, and also Daniel, the lineman, who came out here and acted quickly to prevent a bigger problem."

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.