Electrical jolt hits Havens House

The Fire Department responded quickly to a call from the Havens House.

At about 10 a.m. Monday morning, emergency radio scanners aroundthe Island announced a “smell of smoke and possible structure fireat the Havens House on South Ferry Road. This was no automaticalarm and it seemed that a real disaster might be in the making.The home of the Shelter Island Historical Society is an 18thcentury structure and the second oldest building on the Island. Thevault there contains over 10,000 irreplaceable documents.  
The scene at the bend in the road on Route 114 was a busy one. Thefirst responders were already there, keeping traffic moving. Onetruck, fully manned, lights flashing, was in the driveway. Men infull fire gear were already unwinding hoses and moving swiftly inand out of the house.
Louise Green, director of the society and due to retire two weeksfrom now, along with Beverlea Walz, the society’s curator, watchedfrom the front porch as three more trucks arrived with what seemedlike every available man on the Island.
The “smell of smoke originally reported was actually thedistinctive odor of burned electrical wires – whether there wasanything burning in the walls had yet to be determined. Ms. Walzhad arrived for work shortly before 10 a.m., she said, smelled thetelltale odor, called in the alarm and unplugged everything insight. All was fine on Sunday, she said – whatever happened hadtaken place late Sunday night or early Monday morning.
After systematically checking every room, wall, nook and cranny,the Fire Department called the building secured and suggested thata private electrician be called to answer remaining questions. DaveMcGayhey of Dickerson Electric was unable to find the source of themeltdown inside. He and Ms. Walz found what they were looking foroutside.
Between the breaker box and the pole, a wire that previously hadbeen spliced was shot. A 200-volt power surge had come inovernight, fried the surge suppressor along with at least one ofthe expensive electronics in the Havens House office. Soot wasfound inside the main computer, but fortunately, the large formatprinter, a scanner and another Macintosh computer had been spared.The heating system shorted out as well.
New wiring will be required and the office was closed Mondayafternoon, December 14. Although not fully functional, Havens Housereopened on Tuesday.
While the damage at Havens House was unfortunate, it could havebeen much worse. Watching the firefighters arrive, Ms. Walz shookher head saying, “So many men are here – thank God, because ifthere had been a fire …