PECO’s substation set ablaze

If you saw some­body near PECO’s sub­sta­tion at Rhawn and Dit­man streets late on Oct. 24, what you know might be worth a lot of money.

There was a fire there after 11:30 p.m. that day, and the fed­er­al Bur­eau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Fire­arms and Ex­plos­ives is of­fer­ing $10,000 for in­form­a­tion that will help catch the per­son who set it.

Some­body threw a flam­mable li­quid onto a trans­former pan­el and set it afire, said ATF Spe­cial Agent Steven Bartho­lomew. The fire triggered an alarm that brought a PECO em­ploy­ee and Phil­adelphia fire­fight­ers from En­gine 36 on Frank­ford Av­en­ue to put it out. 

The fire dam­aged equip­ment but didn’t dis­rupt power, and nobody was in­jured, ac­cord­ing to the spokes­men for PECO and the po­lice and fire de­part­ments.

There is some ur­gency in catch­ing the cul­prit or cul­prits. Not only is the Holmes­burg sub­sta­tion a dan­ger­ous place be­cause of the high-voltage equip­ment be­hind its fences, but the Oct. 24 in­cid­ent wasn’t the first at the site.

On Oct. 18, some­body left a plastic gas can with some sort of device at­tached to it at the same site at 4601 Rhawn St.

“We take this ex­tremely ser­i­ously,” said PECO spokes­wo­man Cathy En­gel Men­en­dez, who noted that the sub­sta­tion is a very dan­ger­ous place that people oth­er than trained work­ers should not enter.

“They could die,” she said.

Al­though the fire caused no in­jur­ies and power was not in­ter­rup­ted, it had the po­ten­tial for more severe con­sequences, Bartho­lomew said, adding that ar­son is re­garded as a vi­ol­ent crime.

Such oc­cur­rences are rare, said En­gel Men­en­dez, Bartho­lomew and Capt. Jef­frey Thompson of the Phil­adelphia Fire De­part­ment.

“I can’t re­call many in­cid­ents like this,” Thompson said, adding that the fire mar­shal is in­vest­ig­at­ing the in­cid­ent along with po­lice, PECO se­cur­ity and ATF agents.

Bartho­lomew said ATF is the primary fed­er­al agency that in­vest­ig­ates ar­son.  The neigh­bor­hood around the sub­sta­tion is be­ing can­vassed for wit­nesses and evid­ence is be­ing ana­lyzed in the ATF lab out­side Wash­ing­ton, D.C., he said.

Any­thing any­one saw or heard could aid the in­vest­ig­a­tion, Bartho­lomew ad­ded.

Any­one who has in­form­a­tion about either in­cid­ent at the sub­sta­tion should call the ATF’s 24-hour hot­line at 1-888-ATF-FIRE (1-888-283-3473) or send e-mail to AT­F­ ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

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