Lucases’ use of generator stirs questions

After a Friday morning fire that damaged their home, state Rep. David Lucas and his wife, Macon City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, were allowed to use an Emergency Management Agency generator to keep their refrigerator and freezer running.

EMA Director Johnny Wingers said that, given the same set of circumstances, any Bibb County resident could have done the same.

But it’s unclear exactly what those circumstances were.

Macon Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Thomas, after hearing concerns about the episode Monday, met with Wingers, Police Chief Mike Burns and Fire Chief Marvin Riggins. The consensus was that an initial suspicion of arson led officials to call for a light array so that they could see better in the early morning hours. That array is connected to a diesel generator.

But Wingers, in a later conversation with The Telegraph, said police called for the array without giving a specific reason why they needed it. Wingers also said police Lt. Eric Woodford “did mention the freezer and the refrigerator” when he called on the EMA.

But Thomas said that’s not what Wingers said during their initial meeting. Thomas said he was “stunned” by the inconsistency, and that he’d have to speak to Wingers again to get to the bottom of it.

“Johnny verbally said it was for light at a potential crime scene,” Thomas wrote in an e-mail. “He cannot change his story 30 minutes later.”

At any rate, the generator/light combo was left at the Lucases’ Saratoga Drive home through the day Friday and picked up Saturday morning, said Wingers and David Lucas, one of the longest-serving state representatives in the Georgia General Assembly.

Wingers said the generator had about two-thirds of its diesel tank still full when a crew picked it up Saturday about 10:30 a.m. He said he personally plugged the refrigerator and freezer into the generator Friday morning, although David Lucas never asked him to do so. Elaine Lucas was at the hospital at that point with two grandchildren.

The grandchildren spent Friday in the hospital being treated for smoke inhalation and were released Saturday. The family can’t live in the house right now, although David Lucas was there Monday dealing with the aftermath.

He said he believes the fire was caused by a problem with the electrical wiring.

“I think I mentioned I needed a generator (Friday morning),” he said Monday. “If I need to reimburse the city, if that’s what it takes, I’ll do that.”

Wingers said EMA generators were used similarly during the Mother’s Day tornado last year, though obviously there weren’t enough to go around in a city largely without power.

Asked if the Lucas family received any special treatment because of their political positions, Wingers replied: “Not from me they didn’t.”

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.