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NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

GRAPEVINE A popular mechanic in Grapevine is trying hard not to blow a gasket.

He's out tens of thousands of dollars after his auto shop caught on fire. Both he and his neighbors say it all happened after power lines went haywire, causing a surge of denial by Oncor Electric.

Mechanic Richard Brown took News 8 to a charred portion of his business, bent down, and played the role of an investigator.

'This right here is where the fire actually started,' Brown said.

He was at the charred front counter of what's left of his office at Brown's Auto Center on Northwest Highway in Grapevine. That office and part of his building was destroyed by fire on Oct. 5.

While his garage was spared, he was closed for three weeks. He said the loss of business has been crippling.

'We are behind on building payments, personal house payments, we've taken home no personal income, we are paying our employees out of personal savings,' Brown said.

But what has him fuming is what he found days after the fire.

He found a melted switch panel where an Oncor power line attached to the exterior of his building. When he started talking to his neighbors about what happened that day, the fire took on a new light.

Gary Clinkingbeard, who works at a bike shop across the street, saw smoke and flames crackling from a transformer along Northwest Highway in Grapevine.

'I heard the sparks,' Clinkingbeard said. 'I saw it start to burn, I saw flames coming out of it.'

Another neighbor, Gary Lively, saw the flames and power lines arcing and sparking as well.

'Out of this transformer and that transformer it was blue flame coming out and every time that it happened, it would make a huge noise, 'BOOM,'' Lively said.

Tommy McClure down at DFW Stereo saw Oncor crews working on several power poles that morning, and knew the power company was having big problems.

'Every time they would turn on the power, the transformer would blow up, and it happened about five or six times,' McClure said.

Back at Brown's Auto, a slow-building fire was starting to smolder the day of the transformer malfunctions. As the smoke began to clear, the cause of the fire seemed obvious to Brown.

'And when electricity just keeps going into something so many times, it's eventually going to find a ground,' he said.

Brown believes the repeated surge of electricity melted the connector box and started the fire. Grapevine fire officials agree the junction box on the front counter of the office is where the fire started, but could not nail down the cause.

Oncor officials have admitted to having equipment failures that day. They say power surges were a problem along the street in Grapevine.

But Oncor maintains they are in no way liable for the fire or any damage incurred by any businesses that day.

'Oncor always takes responsibility when we are at fault,' said Oncor spokesperson Jeamy Molina.

Brown believes the evidence shows it's time to make good on that pledge.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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