HECO investigates downed power line that sparked two-alarm fire

A fire that damaged a building and torched three parked cars in Kalihi last week is raising safety concerns about power lines.

The Honolulu Fire Department says the fire was caused by a live power line that broke off and fell to the ground.

No one was hurt, but three cars were a total loss.

We wanted to know what could have caused the line to break and what Hawaiian Electric is doing about it.

Downed power lines are usually caused by a car crash or trees knocking the lines down. But in this case, investigators tell us none of that happened.

Chase Imai was just a few feet away when he saw the power line break off and fall to the ground, with sparks flying out. He said soon after that flames erupted setting the parked cars on fire.

“It was on top of the middle car and dangling off onto the ground,” Imai said.

“Before it fell was there anything that might have caused it?” KHON2 asked.

“All I can say is wind, but it was kind of, I didn’t really believe it, because the gust wasn’t too strong,” Imai replied.

The Honolulu Fire Department says it was a highly charged power line that ignited the cars and eventually the side of the building. But as to why the line broke?

“We don’t know what caused this power line to come down, but there was no obvious signs or reasons that could be easily determined why that power line came down,” said HFD Capt. David Jenkins.

What makes this unusual and even scarier is that the witness says the wire broke from the middle, while work crews say if anything, the weak spot of the wire is where it’s attached to the pole.

“That made me really afraid to park under these posts now. It’s a freaky thing. I feel like it can happen anywhere now,” Imai said.

We reached out to Hawaiian Electric for an explanation. A spokesman referred to the incident as an outage investigation.

He added that they’re continuing to investigate it and will take corrective measures as quickly as possible.

What should you do if you come across a live power line on the ground or if one falls on your car?

The fire department says if you see any type of utility line, assume that it could be a live power line. If you’re driving, staying in the car is the safest option. You can also honk your horn and tell people to stay away and call 911.

If it’s not safe to be inside the car and you need to get out, it’s important not to touch the car and the ground at the same time. Hop out safely, and shuffle away with your feet about six inches apart.

“If you lift up one foot, it could cause an incomplete circuit, where there’s an arcing from your foot and the electricity could go through your body to your other foot just touching the ground,” Jenkins said.

Hawaiian Electric says there is no timetable for the investigation and each one is different.

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