Power restoration continues after transformer fire
BOSTON (WHDH) -- NSTAR says it will work overnight Wednesday into Thursday to restore power to its customers. This comes after nearly 20,000 customers were knocked offline after a 3-alarm fire broke out in a Back Bay utility building where a transformer exploded.
“This clearly is a catastrophic event,” said Werner J. Schweiger, Senior Vice President of Operations with NSTAR.
A 115,000-volt transformer caught fire around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The utility building is located next to the Sheraton Back Bay and Hilton Back Bay hotels, which were evacuated due to the heavy smoke and power outages.
“The only way you could really extinguish the fire is to kill the power to it, so once the power was killed, it affected the neighborhood here in the Back Bay by the Prudential Center,” said Steve MacDonald, Boston Fire Department.
The fire department had to cut power to the transformer to fight the fire, which caused a blackout in Boston's Back Bay.
“A fire of this sort, it’s not just affected; you’ve lost an electrical component. There’s quite a bit of smoke and quite a bit of water that has a tendency to contaminate the entire substations,” said Schweiger.
The lights went out from Arlington Street to Massachusetts Avenue, from Beacon Street to Huntington Avenue and beyond. Even the famous Citgo sign in Kenmore Square went dark during the blackout. There were outages in areas such as the Back Bay, Chinatown, the Theater District and Kenmore Square.
“We have mobilized 50 generators overnight that we are…deploying as we speak to restore the customers in the Back Bay area from Clarendon Street and the Hancock Tower up towards Copley,” said Joe Nolan of NSTAR on Wednesday afternoon.
NSTAR crews were busy restoring power to the 20,000 customers that were initially knocked offline. A rigging crew in the Theater District worked to move a backup 115,000-volt transformer to the Back Bay as dozens of generators and jumper cables were brought in as a temporary fix to get everyone back online by Wednesday night.
“The residents and businesses of our city have been really great about this situation,” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said in a press conference on Wednesday.
NSTAR said its goal is to have its nearly 800 employees working to restore power and then they will investigate what happened.
“After we restore the service our focal point is going to change in terms of doing a root-cause analysis, but right now I don’t have the answer,” said Schweiger.
NSTAR says every hour power will be restored to more customers. NSTAR predicts every customer will have their power back during the overnight hours from Wednesday to Thursday. It was initially estimated that customers would be back online by Wednesday around 8:30 p.m.
Due to the outages, several private colleges, businesses and even the Copley Square location of the Boston Public Library were closed Wednesday. All Boston Public schools, however, were open.
Police have reported no major crimes or accidents in the wake of the outage.
"The 911 volume was really low. We have seen this in other cities where they've lost power and people have looted and rioted. It's a real testament, as the mayor said, to the people of the city that that didn't happen," an official said.
Police have maintained a strong presence in the area directing traffic where traffic lights remained shut off.
Massachusetts State Police Advisory (as of 7:30 p.m. Wednesday): The Prudential ramp will be closed until Friday to accommodate two generators, which will supply electricity to Prudential Tunnel and other establishments in the area. This will now effectively shut down exit #22 completely as the Copley ramp was closed at 1:15 p.m. this date. The Prudential ramp will be shutdown for approximately 2 days. -- via Massachusetts State Police Office of Media Relations.
(Copyright (c) 2012 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)