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Main Street ‘Back to Normal’ After Underground Electrical Fire

The fire began Sunday morning with a transformer that blew on Old Palisade Road, forcing Main Street businesses to close and even one Fort Lee firehouse to lose power. But fire officials said power was restored to the area as of late Sunday night.

Power was fully restored late Sunday night after closed a portion of Main Street earlier in the day, briefly leaving about 250 homes and businesses without power, officials said.

“I believe everything was 100 percent back to normal as of late last night,” said Chief Keith Sabatino Monday morning.

On Sunday officials said black smoke was “pouring out” of a sidewalk vent from an underground vault that houses electrical wires on Main Street. Sabatino said the fire was likely the result of a transformer blowout at 200 Old Palisade Rd., and that when PSE&G cut the power to that building, there may have been a "back feed" up Main Street, which caused the underground fire. 

There was another underground electrical fire on Main Street on June 26; the wires that caught fire Sunday had recently been replaced by PSE&G.

Sabatino said Monday that such incidents have been an ongoing problem for longer than mere weeks.

“This has happened several times over the last few years in the same area,” Sabatino said, adding, “One of my firehouses was without power the entire time [Sunday].”

“I had to man the firehouse all night,” Sabatino said, referring to Fort Lee Firehouse No. 1 at 146 Main St.

He said a new backup generator that’s slated to be installed at the firehouse has yet to come in, but that by about 7 p.m. Sunday, power had been restored to the firehouse and fully restored to the rest of the area by 8 or 9 p.m.

“These wires are all old underneath the ground; they’ve been there forever so they [PSE&G] keep on replacing parts of it,” Sabatino said. “Maybe the loads are too much; I don’t know.”

Officials said it was somewhat fortunate the fire occurred on a Sunday, when many businesses are closed and traffic in the area tends to be lighter.

“If this was Monday morning, it would be a different story,” Sabatino said. 

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