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Fire Chief: CL&P's Sunday Promise? 'No Way'

Allyn: "We have pockets in town where it almost looks like a tornado came through."

Despite a pledge by CL&P to restore virtually all power in the region by midnight Sunday, West Hartford Interim Fire Chief Gary Allyn said, “No way.”

And in West Hartford, “Same answer,” Allyn said Friday at fire department headquarters on Raymond Road.

The head of CL&P, Jeffrey Butler, said early Friday that another 100,000 customers were expected to have power before Saturday. At the start of the day, 309,000 remained in the cold and in the dark.

Allyn appears to be among several fire chiefs – in addition to much of the public – who are publicly disputing CL&P’s ability to fulfill its promise.

“No way,” Allyn said and repeated, “No way. The amount of damage that is out there – we have never, ever, ever seen this kind of damage in Connecticut. Go north of the I-84 corridor and it’s pretty much devastated. There’s no way they’re going to get that up.”

As far as West Hartford, “Same answer. We have pockets in town where it almost looks like a tornado came through.”

Allyn said the repair effort throughout the state is hindered because some damaged transmission lines – the huge conveyors of electricity – are off-road.

“They’re in places where they can’t get in with trucks. They have to hike in,” Allyn said. “They have a lot of that going on in Farmington right now.”

In West Hartford, Allyn said crews have arrived from Indiana, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Tennessee. Although the crews are doing the best they can, the race against CL&P’s clock, however, may be unrealistic.

“They’re certainly good crews,” Allyn said.

Allyn also called out CL&P’s method of communication.

“This is 2011,” Allyn said. “Their information, and how they get it to us, is quite frankly ridiculous. We’re not getting good information. One of the challenges is they speak in a different language than we do. We were hoping our [CL&P] liaison [Watson Collins] was going to be able to interpret for us, but they’re not even giving him good information.”

Since the storm struck Saturday afternoon, Allyn said West Hartford firefighters have responded to more than 3,000 calls for service.

“It’s an incredible number,” said Allyn, who was named interim chief July 26, replacing William Austin, who moved to a regional Homeland Security post. "We normally average 3,800 calls a year."

answered 190 calls during the worst 36 hours of Tropical Storm Irene.

Overnight, a fire that heavily damaged a home at . was under investigation. Allyn said fires that damaged homes on Whitman Avenue and Grennan Road were caused by appliances that resumed working as electricity returned.

“Make sure you check your home before the power goes back on,” Allyn said. “If your stove was on [before the blackout], it’s going to start to cook.”

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