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Ho-Ho-Kus Homes Evacuated: Downed Utility Line Sparks, Blows Manhole Cover

Some homes were temporarily evacuated. Photo Credit: Boyd A. Loving
The road was closed. Photo Credit: Boyd A. Loving
Sizzle 'n snap. Photo Credit: Boyd A. Loving
An Eyewitness News camera was rolling when it happened.
An Eyewitness News camera was rolling when it happened. Video Credit: Eyewitness News ABC7NY

HO-HO-KUS, N.J. – Video shows a downed power line in Ho-Ho-Kus that ignited a tree limb, eventually sparking an underground explosion that popped two manhole covers – nearly hitting emergency responders.

ABC7 Eyewitness News video shows responders arriving at the Gilbert Road fire, which broke out just before 10 a.m. Thursday when a primary service line set the limb ablaze, cracking it off the tree.

The falling limb yanked several power lines onto the roadway and on top of a nearby vehicle, Fire Lt. Dane Michael Policastro said Friday.

“The high tension lines began arcing in the roadway and on top of the vehicle, which was in close proximity to a nearby structure,” said the lieutenant, who requested all remaining borough fire apparatus to the scene.

Raising concerns was a 30-inch high-pressure gas main just below the arcing wires.

Moments later, an explosion sent two manhole covers flying 30 to 40 feet.

“It is believed that as the heated gases expanded it created pressure seeking opportunity to vent,” Policastro said. “The resulting explosion escaped at the weakest point, the manhole covers.”

Responders immediately evacuated all nearby homes on Hollywood Avenue and Hollywood Place, while responders retreated to a safer distance.

A PSE&G crew temporarily cut power to the area and took readings that determined the remaining gas levels weren’t potentially dangerous.

Firefighters then doused the blaze.

In total, officials estimated firefighters were at the scene for 7½ hours. Police, DPW workers and the borough Office of Emergency Management also responded.

“This incident is another stern reminder to the public as well as members of the public safety community that electrical and gas emergencies can quickly advance into potentially deadly situations.,” Policastro said. “Fortunately all area residents and first responders involved in this incident went home safely.”

Boyd A. Loving contributed to this report.

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