Chesterton Tribune



NIPSCO says new automated meter reader not connected to residential fire in BH

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NIPSCO said that a new automated meter reader (AMR) installed on Saturday in a home in Burns Harbor had nothing to do with an electrical fire which occurred in the residence later in the day.

No one sustained fire-related injuries in the incident and damage was minimal, Fire Chief Bill Arney told the Chesterton Tribune after deadline on Wednesday.

At 4:16 p.m. Saturday, the BHFD was dispatched to the home at 331 Village Square, after a microwave apparently turned itself on and a cooking dish inside it overheated, filling the residence with a light haze of smoke, Arney said.

Investigators preliminarily determined that an electrical circuit in the wall initially shorted out, causing a short in the microwave which in turn activated the device, Arney said. What caused the short-circuit in the wall is not at the moment clear and Arney was scheduled to meet with insurance investigators today.

The only actual damage was to the microwave, Arney noted. Electrical service to the home was disconnected and a thermal imaging camera used to monitor heat levels in the wall. No overhaul was necessary. The BHFD cleared the scene at 5:51 p.m.

Meanwhile, Arney said, “NIPSCO pulled the meter and is running its own tests.” Arney added that he was under the impression that the NIPSCO crew on the scene was “concerned.”

NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer, however, told the Tribune today that it’s “standard procedure” to remove an electrical meter after a residential fire. And Meyer said that nothing indicates that the new AMR was in any way connected to the fire. “Based on our investigation, there is no causal evidence linking the fire to the meter reading device.”

“AMRs allow the utility to read several hundred meters in a fraction of the time it would take someone going door to door,” Meyer said. AMRs are now “standard throughout the country and water companies have been using them for years. They’re not new devices and they have a very good track record.”

“I can assure you we’ve not had any incidents,” Meyer emphasized. “We’ve not had a fire or any other problem.”

NIPSCO is currently installing the AMRs throughout its service territory and expects nearly 1 million of them to be in service by the end of 2014, Meyer added. The company is working with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and a contractor to perform the installations.

Meyer noted that, besides the increased efficiency which AMRs accrue to NIPSCO, “they eliminate estimated bills, which are always a concern to the customer, and they increase people’s privacy. Readers will no longer need to walk through side yards or go into people’s basements. And it’s safer for our employees, who don’t have to worry any more about being bitten by dogs.”

Meyer added that AMRs should not be confused with so-called “smart two-way meters.” The only electrical component in the AMRs, he said, is that which enables the meter to record usage.



Posted 6/6/2013