Firefighters faced an unusually dangerous incident Thursday, July 13, as a utility pole caught fire, downed several power lines and caused disruptions along Joralemon St., the Belleville Fire Department reported.
The Belleville Fire Department gave the following description of the fire:
Several 9-1-1 calls were received that day (July 13) at around 12:30 p.m., reporting smoke coming from a utility pole in front of 530 Joralemon St.
Two alert, off-duty firefighters noticed the fire and alerted headquarters to dispatch a company to check conditions.
Truck 1 responded and arrived within two minutes. On scene, firefighters observed high-voltage power wires smoldering inside a conduit attached to the utility pole. They cordoned off the area, and as conditions worsened, had to evacuate nearby businesses and shut down the roadway.
Arcing wires threw sparks across the sidewalk, and the wooden pole quickly erupted into flames. Additional help was requested, and a full response of two additional engine companies and a battalion chief were sent to assist.
Firefighters set up precautionary hose lines to protect a pharmacy and a luncheonette. A gas station and lumber company were also shut down and evacuated, also.
The Belleville Police Department blocked off Joralemon St. in both directions as burning wires fell into the roadway. The incident commander put out an urgent request for PSE&G to respond to the hazardous condition.
PSE&G arrived within 30 minutes and cut power to the area.
This allowed fire crews to extinguish the fire burning up the utility poles before it could spread to the buildings or overhead wires.
Firefighters also stretched additional hoses to protect the structures and a gas station.
School 7 was not affected; however, an alert went out to have all children picked up from the Division Ave. side as a precaution.
No civilians or firefighters were injured as a result of the fire.
The pharmacy and luncheonette remained closed while utility company representatives evaluated the damage from the fire. Power was restored to the grid, allowing nearby businesses to remain open. However, extensive damage was done to telephone, power and cable lines. Area residents and businesses were left without telephone service, Internet access and cable TV.
Contractors will be working to restore services to those customers affected. There is no estimation as to when full service would be restored (as of press time.)
The fire was apparently caused by a car crashing into a cable at the pole, according to PSE&G spokeswoman Brooke Houston.
“ … in Belleville, a car hit a cable that runs from the ground to the transformer at the top of the pole. This damage caused the cable to arc, which ignited the pole,” Houston said.
— Kevin Canessa