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Small cable fire leaves Bayside block in the dark

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"Joe Donovan didn't pay his ConEd bill," one patron joked at the bar about the owner.Donovan's and several neighboring businesses on the block of 41st Avenue between Bell Boulevard and 214th Place, including the Fire Department's Engine 306 stationhouse, lost power for much of the day last Thursday due to what ConEdison workers said was a burned cable underground, possibly corroded by road salt. The burnt cable caused a small manhole fire Thursday morning at the intersection of Bell Boulevard and 41st Avenue."Due to severe weather conditions, ConEdison responded to several emergency calls on March 24," said a spokeswoman for ConEdison. "Customers who had lost all service were prioritized. We were able to make restoration to the partial service disruption to the firehouse as soon as crews were available."At the Engine 306 firehouse, firefighters said they were able to still respond to jobs despite the lack of power from around 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and stressed that the mini-blackout did not impair their abilities to answer calls. After around 6 p.m., the firehouse was able to tap into an emergency electricity supply as power was rerouted from an overhead source. Their electricity service was fully restored around 7 p.m, according to the Fire Department. The Engine 306 firehouse does not have a backup generator for cases of power outages, according to the department."Not every firehouse has a generator," a Fire Department official said. "But they're able to respond because the computer and the dispatcher are on a different power system." The department's dispatch system has built-in backups for cases of electric outages and firefighters can get emergency calls through their trucks, he said.Area merchants criticized ConEdison's slow response time and failure to inform the community adequately. Eddie Teran, owner of American Vision optical store at 41-01 Bell Blvd., said he spent two hours on his cell phone trying to reach the electric company."ConEdison won't acknowledge there was a problem," he said. "It sounds like they're not really concerned." Teran said he had to close his store early and sent his staff home for fear of carbon monoxide poisoning from the smoldering cable.Erin Donovan, the manager of Donovan's of Bayside and daughter of owner Joe Donovan, said the loss of power affected a large planned luncheon and threw their food supply into question just a few days before the restaurant's popular Easter dinner."It was very difficult. We had a funeral party of 80 people coming for lunch, and we couldn't reach them to tell them not to come. But they were troopers" and stayed at the restaurant, she said. The pub's chefs, cooking by candlelight, managed to serve them and a few other lunchers a limited menu, Donovan said.And despite the loyalty of some customers, Donovan said there were many others who came, saw the situation, and left."We lost a lot of business," she said. As the power slowly came back up around 6 p.m., Donovan looked at the jukebox with concern as music suddenly blared and the overhead televisions came to life. "Hopefully, we don't have a power surge," she said. Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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