Royal Oak fire crew forced to watch house burn waiting for DTE - FOX 13 News

Royal Oak fire crew forced to watch house burn waiting for DTE

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ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WJBK) - Roberta Erxleben has lived in her house for 30 years and says her garage would not have been destroyed Sunday had DTE responded to another electric fire sooner.

It all started a few houses down where a tree limb fell on several wires, charging a fence and causing a wire above Erxleben's garage to fall right on top of it.

"My garage was burning for at least a half hour before the guys came to cut the wires," says Erxleben. Neighbors say it took anywhere between 45 minutes to more than an hour for a DTE crew to arrive. When it did, it was a crew from Trenton.

This house a few doors down from Erxleben's took the brunt of the damage. DTE had already been called when the siding had begun to melt, but firefighters had to wait until this gate was no longer electrified before they could go in and put the flames out.

Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison says even though there was a storm Sunday, DTE has a habit of taking too long to cut the power to downed lines and houses during fires.

"The fire we had last week on Mandalay, I sat there and watched our firefighters sit there and watch that house burn because they couldn't kill the power. The house was charged and they couldn't touch it, and so we sat there and just watched it burn," says Ellison. "We went through this two years ago with another house off of 13 Mile. That wire fell on the house and it took them a long time to respond and they lost the house."

Erxleben can't go back to hers. DTE is afraid that if the power is turned back on the house will catch on fire.

"Now I am inconvenienced. I can't go to work; I can't take a shower; I can't dry my hair; I can't do anything I would normally do in my house," she says.

DTE says its workers are not first responder and getting out to scenes like this will take some time. It's also investigating the delayed response last week.

Mayor Ellison plans to meet with DTE soon and urge the company to improve its infrastructure and relocate some of its workers.

"I want to hear that they got a better action plan in place that doesn't include having to wait for someone to come up from downriver to come up and turn the power off for a fire in royal oak," Ellison says.
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