Residents near Watchung Plaza were baffled and frightened tonight when an electrical transformer burst into flame, lighting the sky. The fire, which took place around 8:30 pm, was the second freak electrical fire in one day, and it took place just blocks from the first fire. (Photo below, by Jim Nash.)
Mayor Ed Remsen, who was on the scene, said the transformer, on a pole at the intersection of Grove and Gordonhurst, fell to the ground, causing a fire that, while limited to the street, "lit up the skies." Montclair firefighters waited for PSE&G to get to the scene, Remsen said. That appears to have taken about an hour, as utility workers were dealing with another situation in Clifton.
Meanwhile, houses nearby were evacuated, the mayor said.
"The sky was flashing like crazy," said Scot Surbeck, who took pictures of the earlier fire, caused by a downed wire, which incinerated a parked car shortly before noon.
Remsen said that, when he left the scene, shortly before 10 pm, the fire was under control and PSE&G was preparing to shut down the power grid. Meanwhile, the sidewalk in front of Watchung Plaza, where the downed electrical line struck earlier, was still sizzling tonight, Remsen said.
"It’s been a hell of a day," the mayor said, adding that the initial fire was scarier because it involved a car and was so close to buildings. "We were so afraid the stores might go up," he said.
In an earlier comment on Baristanet, Remsen expressed concern about how long it had taken PSE&G to respond to the scene for the first fire. It is not known whether the two incidents are connected. Remsen said he will wait for his public safety department’s report before deciding whether to make an official complaint to the utility. (Photo above by Bruce Goodman.)