Verizon: There Was No Fire. Fire Department: Yes, There Was A Fire.

We’re feeling philosophical this morning after being confronted with two very different accounts of what went on at a small house on Pine Grove Street in Needham, Mass. Was there a fire? Was there not a fire? What is the definition of fire, anyway?

After the Needham Times reported a small electrical fire that caused a blackout on August 8, the story was picked by Paul McNamara at Networkworld. Verizon PR-guro John Bonomo left the following comment on Paul’s site:

“Unfortunately, (the fire) story differs quite a bit from the version of the Verizon staffers on the scene. Here it is: One of our new techs was installing a triple play at a Needham home (they’re selling like hotcakes, btw). When drilling a hole for the Optical Network Terminal, he accidentally hit an electrical wire, knocking out power to the house. Our bad, but no smoke, and no fire. Out of an overabundance of caution (always a good thing) the local fire department was called. The FD cut a hole in side of house where the drilling took place to expose the area and check for a fire. There was none.”

He also sent a similar message to Steven Ryan, the reporter at the Needham Times who wrote the original story. So, there wasn’t really a fire? What about that quote from the Deputy Fire Chief of Needham? When Paul from Networkworld called about “the fire” the DFC, Al DeIulio, told Paul that the Verizon tech was “lucky he’s not dead.” Wait, so he didn’t actually say: “Yes, Paul. There was a fire.” The mystery deepens.

Steven Ryan, reporter from the Needham Times, has done some additional fact checking. This is what he reports:

Verizon insists there was no fire, but the fire department stands by their account. “If there’s flames, there’s fire,” said Deputy Chief Al DeIulio

So was there a fire? We don’t know. What we do know is that Steven Ryan, Paul McNamara, and Deputy Fire Chief Al DeIulio probably have a pretty serious case of “Verizon Face” right about now.

UPDATE: From Paul @ Network World:

(Update: We have another eye-witness account, albeit second hand. An acquaintance tells me that he lives in the vicinity of Pine Grove Street and that his wife reports being there as the incident unfolded … and seeing smoke.)

(Update 2: We now have an official statement from the fellow’s wife: “I was one of 50 people there watching gray smoke billowing from the electric meter panel.” … Seems like game, set, match.)

Verizon vs. the Needham Fire Department [Networkworld]
If there’s flames, there’s fire [Needham Times]

PREVIOUSLY: Verizon Sets Fire To Your Home


Edit Your Comment

  1. Melov says:

    Who cares. I wanna know who covered the bill for the holes

  2. gibsonic says:

    I wonder if the install tech got “fired”?

  3. Youthier says:

    Wow, the guy is a guru. He manages to promote the triple play while calling a customer and fire department liars.

  4. ptkdude says:

    @Melov: Verizon: There were no holes. Out of an abundance of caution, we called the drywallers, but there were in fact no holes.

  5. deanfortytwo says:

    @heyhermano: Yeah, and act like Verizon is nothing if not safety-conscious. That’s a true BS master at work.

  6. chimmike says:


    I agree. Who cares? what does this have to do with consumer advocacy/protection? The Verizon guy basically admitted they screwed up by hitting the electrical line.


  7. Cowboys_fan says:

    Perhars Verizon was referring to “fire” in its verb form, like “to fill with passion and enthusiasm”. By starting a fire, the customer was not enthusiastic. Or like the service was not “fired up”(due to fire). Fire can mean causing to explode, like detonate, or “to apply fire or fuel”, “to become irritated or angry”, or a noun from the brits “a small gas or electric space heater”, etc, etc, etc.

  8. Ben Popken says:

    @ptkdude: Typical PR FUD (fear uncertainty doubt) bullshit. They’re trying to go and say there’s no fire and that the fire dude is a liar, and doing it through blog comments. I think that’s pretty notable.

  9. gibsonic says:


    …or to be removed from a state of employment

  10. B says:

    Skinner: “You know what they say, where there’s no smoke, there’s no fire”
    Chalmers: “What an odd thing to say.”

  11. ediebeale says:

    @chimmike: Yeah, a company lies about one of their employees setting a fire in a customer’s home. Not a consumer issue at allllllll.

  12. @Ben Popken: That meant to be @chimmike, right?

    Why would anyone call the fire department if there’s no fire? Wouldn’t they have called the power company if all that happened was that the power went out?

  13. Cowboys_fan says:

    Verizons new jingle should be Billy Joes’s “We didn’t start the fire”.

  14. Cowboys_fan says:

    err Joel’s

  15. chimmike says:

    the big issue here is whether Verizon paid for damages, etc. that they had caused……not whether the fire was actually set or not.

    Verizon already admitted they screwed up. The rest is trivial except for the fact that we have NO IDEA if they paid for repairs or not.

  16. j-o-h-n says:

    When Verizon lets the fire department diagnose their network problems, then they can play fire inspector, until then they should just STFU.

  17. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @chimmike: nah the real issue is a rep from a major company used the term “Our bad” to explain a mistake.

  18. mopar_man says:

    Hmm…who to believe? A PR guy that wasn’t actually there that works for a huge cooperation who has a less then stellar reputation or…the fire department that was actually there? Nice work Verizon…

  19. @chimmike: Why would Verizon pay for damage caused by a fire they’re claiming never happened? They’re not admitting they messed up if the fire really happened.

  20. Youthier says:

    I still wish the PR guy had gone all the way with a metaphor. “We didn’t start a house fire but our new Triple Play package will set your household on fire!” or something much better.

    I would have had more respect for them if they had really committed.

  21. netbuzz says:

    Yes, Verizon is going to make good. FTA: “… they’ve promised to foot the bill for whatever repairs are necessary …”

  22. n8srq says:

    Noooo…I can just see that hole in my Grandparent’s house which they sold in 1984. I loved that house.

  23. RogueSophist says:

    That fire was +20db hot. It was true QuAM!

  24. gorckat says:

    Having hit wires while drilling, rewired electric heating elements incorrectly and attempting to rig an electric water heater to run on only a single element in my days as an HVAC apprentice, I can say I’ve seen smoke and no flames.

    It is possible that the heat generated by the short melted something and produced smoke.

  25. Candyman says:

    Sounds to me like burnt wires. A fireman would call that a fire, but the verizon guy can say it easn’t a fire since it’s not all flamey.

  26. Youthier says:

    @Candyman: Yeah but Verizon claims no smoke. That seems suspicious to me. My brother’s house was “on fire” this year due to the terrible electric circuits and there were no flames but a hell of a lot of smoke.