See video from the June 1 fire that destroyed Dr. Glen Rowe's South Governors Avenue office. According to the Delaware Office of the State Fire Marshal, city of Dover workers caused the fire when the were moving electric lines in anticipation of a future road widening project.
Dr. Glen Rowe vividly remembers the day a fire burned out his medical office. A nurse practitioner at a nearby clinic heard the building was ablaze and called him the afternoon of June 1 to ask if that was so. A call to 911 confirmed it.
“I grabbed my keys and took off … it was disappointing to see the building engulfed in flames,” he said. “It was like a giant fireplace because it’s a brick building.”
Though initially listed as an “accidental burning no specific crime associated” by the State Fire Marshal in a June 13 report, a final report written July 1 states the fire was caused by city of Dover workers who were moving live electric lines.
The Dover Post recently received the initial report and subsequent July 1 report after filing a Freedom of Information Act request June 11.
The report, written by Robert Borkowski, senior fire protection specialist for the Office of the State Fire Marshal, outlines events leading up to the fire as city workers moved power lines in anticipation of a future road widening project.
“The one employee stated, that after the conductors were connected to the transformer … it was turned on,” the report read. “He then took testers to the meter boxes to check the phases for current.
“While checking the power, he realized that the neutral wire was connected to a hot phase,” it continued. “He then yelled to the co-worker to turn off the power.”
When the worker looked up he saw smoke coming from the building’s eaves, the report said, adding that the fire department was called to respond.
Borkowski summed up his review by writing that any metal that came in contact with the live wire would become energized and would remain so even if a circuit breaker were tripped.
Four fire companies responded to the blaze in which Dover’s fire marshal began the initial investigation but turned it over to the state fire marshal because the medical building lies just outside the city’s jurisdiction.
Dover City Manager Tony DePrima declined to comment on initial reports about the fire in June stating the “matter is under investigation by the city of Dover’s insurance company” and that he had “been instructed by the insurer not to comment until they have completed their investigation.”
He since has referred all questions to Human Resources Director Kim Hawkins, who did not return phone calls requesting information such as who is the city’s insurance carrier and where the investigation currently stands.
Likewise, Ron Lunt, public utilities director for the city of Dover, did not return phone calls inquiring whether city workers have been given additional training on handling live electric currents. He also referred calls to Hawkins.
Rowe has been kept apprised of the situation through his insurance carrier, Nationwide. Other than that, he said he’s had no contact with anyone from the city of Dover.
“No one has spoken to me,” he said. “It’s a shame because the detectors were off since the power was off and we had battery back-up but the alarm service was aware that they were working on the lines so they didn’t respond because they didn’t think there was a problem.”
The fire caused an estimated $3.5 million in damages and completely gutted the orthopedic surgeon’s office that he shares with pain specialist Dr. Gene Godfrey and chiropractor George Shreppler.
“A $1 million MRI scanner is now scrap metal,” Rowe said, adding X-ray and bone density machines also were destroyed.
Though the ordeal has been a huge disruption to his business, he greatly appreciates the outpouring of help he’s received.
“Through this whole thing, you get to see who people are,” Rowe said. “I’ve been humbled and touched by the medical community.”
He’s currently conducting his business on the second floor of the Kaza building on Old Rudnick Lane. Local imaging office Mid-Delaware Imaging has been providing X-ray services for his patients and on Sept. 1 he plans to move once more to second-floor office space at 540 S. Governors Ave., across from Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital. Rowe’s office will occupy the space left by Dedicated to Women as they move to the Eden Hill Medical Center.
After that, he’s unsure.
“My insurance carrier told me that working with municipalities usually takes a long time,” Rowe said. “It’s been two months already and there’s been little done.”
Email Melissa K. Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video by Christopher D. Foster