Fire Caused by Power Lines?

(WSVN) - He came home to see his meter box on fire. The damage then spread to his appliances — and then the news got worse when Florida Power and Light said they were not responsible for the blaze. Or were they? It’s why one South Florida man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to get the answer. A hint: He is smiling tonight.

If it’s the American dream to own your own home…

Gregg Lazzaro, powerless: “I bought this house in 2012.”

Then it’s the American nightmare to get a frantic call about that house.

Gregg Lazzaro: “My nephew called me and told me that my house was on fire.”

Gregg saw his house in flames when he pulled up to his home.

The memory of that still bothers him.

Gregg Lazzaro: “All I knew was that it was a lot of sparks, a lot of fire and it looked like a Fourth of July going off in there.”

After Gregg made sure his family and dogs were safe, he started to try to put out the fire … then backed off.

Gregg Lazzaro: “There was no way we could turn it off. Underneath, where all the sparks and fire was coming in, is a big gas line. We have natural gas out here, and we were afraid it was going to blow up.”

Fire rescue couldn’t put out the fire till FPL arrived to turn off the power. After the blaze was out, Gregg got more bad news from FPL.

Gregg Lazzaro: “‘You probably won’t have power for a while.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘You need to put a new box and new service inside and you get inspection. You have to get a permit.’ I have to do all this before you guys do anything?”

Gregg then found out the same type of fire erupted at a neighbor’s house, and as the days passed, he discovered the damage had spread through his home.

Gregg Lazzaro: “The air conditioning is not working right, some of the wires were fried. The refrigerator inside here had a little bit of a problem.”

Gregg says the repairs and replacing the food from his freezers cost him $4,600, and FPL told him they were not reimbursing him for those expenses.

Gregg Lazzaro: “I said, ‘Yeah, but your power blew up my box. What are you going to do about that?'”

Gregg says they told him they don’t have to pay — or Howard, do they?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “It depends. If a problem occurs, you are responsible, even if it’s FPL’s mistake, but the law says the power company is responsible if they commit gross negligence. However, the law does not specifically define gross negligence, just calls it a really serious or bad mistake. Would a fire at your house be a bad mistake? Depends on what caused it.”

We contacted FPL about Gregg’s problem.

FPL checked into it and his neighbor who had a similar incident.

A spokesperson wrote, “The incidents that occurred in Miami Lakes were not caused by the smart meters … We have thoroughly investigated both incidents, which included issues with separate underground power lines servicing the two customers.”

Regarding Gregg, a spokesman wrote, “Initially, the incident did not appear to be related to FPL’s equipment. Upon further review, we determined that the company was responsible for the incident.”

Gregg Lazzaro: “Just to be paid back.”

Gregg then signed a confidentiality agreement with FPL which stated he could not talk to us, but he said he was very happy.

And based on what he had told us earlier, I am going to guess he got most of the $4,600 he was asking for.

Gregg Lazzaro: “If they can reimburse me for what I paid, I will be a happy camper.”

You gotta give FPL credit for investigating and saying it was their fault. That cost them money.

Now, if you have a problem like Gregg did and you don’t think you should pay for the repairs, hire your own electrician and go from there. And, if you have a complaint about a power company, a natural gas company and some water and sewage companies, they are regulated by Florida Public Service Commission. The link to contact them is below this Help Me Howard story.

Feeling powerless to solve a problem? Need someone to light a fire under them? Contact us. No one ever called us electric, but we will try to blaze a trail to a solution for you.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida Public Service Commission
http://www.psc.state.fl.us/

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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