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Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department engineer John Volkman answers questions about the 111-year old light bulb in Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department's Firehouse 6 that was out for several hours the night of May 20 but is once again burning as bright as it can on May 21, 2013, in Livermore.

LIVERMORE -- To the relief of many bulb watchers, Livermore's Centennial Light Bulb, the world's longest lasting light bulb, came back on Tuesday after a dead battery caused it to go dark for about six hours.

The historic carbon-filament bulb, housed at Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Station No. 6, has been burning continuously for 111 years, with the exception of a few interruptions. According to fire officials, a battery backup device regulating power to the bulb failed just before midnight Monday, shutting it off to protect it.

Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Chief Jim Miguel said the department wasn't aware of the problem until about 4 a.m. Tuesday; Miguel was notifed shortly before 6 a.m.

"When they told me, my first thought was, 'Oh no, let's not have it go out on my watch,'" Miguel said. "I'm just glad it didn't end this morning."

A city electrician was able to get the bulb back on, temporarily plugging it into a wall outlet without surge protection. The bulb needs to be connected to a new battery backup, Miguel said, leaving him cautious about causing any damage to the delicate filament.

"You just hope everything goes well," Miguel said. "We will all hold our breaths."

Livermore's Centennial Light Bulb is listed in the 2013 "Guinness Book of World Records" as the longest-lasting light bulb in the world. It has gained worldwide notoriety through various news media and TV shows, including the popular "Mythbusters."


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On Tuesday morning, many viewing the bulb via its 24-hour-a-day webcam on its website concluded -- some frantically so -- that it had burned out.

Barry Schrader, who helped plan the celebration when the bulb turned 100 and who now lives in Illinois, said he heard the news through a "panicked" call from the website's webmaster early Tuesday and was ready to fly to Livermore to save it from being taken to a museum out of town.

"I thought the world was coming to an end," Schrader said. "I'm just relieved it's still shining."

Schrader said with the bulb being such an important piece of civic history, he would like the City Council to start planning now for when it finally does burn out. The "Guinness Book of World Records" has expressed interest in it for its museum when it finally dies.

"It's never been equaled anywhere else in the world," Schrader said.

But that didn't stop someone from trying. The temporary outage spurred an edit to the Wikipedia entry for the bulb, reading, "On May 20th 2013, the Centennial Light Bulb went out, leaving the Eternal Light as the new oldest light bulb."

However, Teresa Burleson, director of the Stock Yard Museum in Fort Worth, Texas -- home of the second-oldest bulb, the 105-year-old Eternal Light -- said their museum wasn't about to claim the title.

"Well, that's not right," Burleson said of the entry. "It came back on didn't it? We had that happen to us last summer; everyone on this street lost power. ... Besides, it's still been burning longer than ours."

The Centennial Light Bulb, first powered up in 1901, has been shut off several times before -- most recently for about 23 minutes in 1976, when the fire station relocated to East Avenue. The 112th anniversary of the bulb will be celebrated June 18.

Miguel said because of the bulb's longevity, visitors from all over the world come to see it in person and sign its guest book.

Saved from the dubious distinction of being the acting fire chief when it burned out, he said he was happy to see the light come back on.

"Obviously it's a source of many smiles and community pride," Miguel said. "It certainly is a fun icon."

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.