Firefighters from Royal Oak help extinguish any remaining fire at the DTE Energy substation on Stephenson Highway, south of 12 Mile Road, Aug. 8.

Firefighters from Royal Oak help extinguish any remaining fire at the DTE Energy substation on Stephenson Highway, south of 12 Mile Road, Aug. 8.

Photo provided by Dennis Walus

Substation fire sparks outage in Madison Heights, Royal Oak

By: Andy Kozlowski | C&G Newspapers | Published August 23, 2022


MADISON HEIGHTS/ROYAL OAK — More than 7,000 people in the cities of Madison Heights and Royal Oak were left without power when a fire broke out at the local DTE Energy substation.

The incident occurred the evening of Aug. 8 at the substation located on Stephenson Highway, just south of 12 Mile Road. At press time, the cause of the blaze was unknown and investigations were ongoing. The fire was quickly resolved by employees and the Royal Oak Fire Department with no reported injuries.

According to Dave Akerly, senior communications strategist at DTE Energy, the company worked swiftly to restore power.

“Our emergency response crews worked through the night to install six utility generators along with a portable substation, and reroute power to ensure the majority of customers impacted by the substation fire had their power restored overnight,” Akerly said via email.

Lt. Al Carter, with the Royal Oak Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division, said that many Royal Oak residents were affected in the south end of the city. He said the fire itself was small, but it caused significant damage before it was extinguished, resulting in the outage. It could have been worse if not for the actions of an employee, he said.

“The employee (who first responded to the fire) was fortunate. He put it out. It could have created a larger power outage as well,” Carter said.

Aaron Filipski, director of the Royal Oak Department of Public Services and Recreation, said that the department’s building on Campbell Road was affected.

“But the (power was only) down for a brief period of time while we hooked up our new generator we bought last year,” Filipski said. “So we put that to use. It was dark for a little bit, but we managed to get that connected (and the power back).”

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, said she finds the incident concerning.

“I recognize that most power outages are due to severe weather conditions, and I am thankful to the line workers who continue slogging through to restore our power. However, we need a longer-term fix,” Grafstein said via email. “If the substation outage was an overload, then DTE needs to work with local governments to make sure they can meet the electrical needs of any new developments.

“I, along with most of our residents, are frustrated with our power situation this summer,” Grafstein continued. “When the substation fire occurred at the start of the month, it was on the heels of a power outage in some areas the previous week, so residents had just finished cleaning out and restocking fridges. We still have quite a few people working from home who had to scramble for a place to plug in and go online so that they could work, and some area businesses had to shut down for a day or two. All in all, we are annoyed that this keeps happening.”

Akerly last week described the next steps being taken by DTE Energy.

“We are working to make repairs to the substation so we can transfer all impacted customers to a permanent power source. This may take up to two weeks, but we’re working as quickly and safely as possible,” Akerly said. “As final repairs are made to our permanent substation, customers may experience a brief interruption as we transfer their power back to the grid.

“We know how difficult losing power is for our customers, and we apologize for the frustration and inconvenience they’ve experienced,” he continued. “Our teams are working 24/7 to make the necessary repairs to provide them with the reliable energy they deserve.”