Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Fire broke out at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital Tuesday when a transformer ignited.
The emergency room at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London is reopened Wednesday after a transformer fire Tuesday but surgeries are still postponed.
More than 50 patients were moved from the emergency room or their rooms Tuesday because of a two-alarm electrical fire that started outside the building, adjacent to the Emergency Department near Faire Harbour Place.
One of the three transformers was damaged, forcing the hospital to operate on back-up power, with no air conditioning, Alina Schwartzman, a hospital spokeswoman, said.
No one was hurt and firefighters were able to keep smoke out of the building, officials said, but it was a major disruption.
“You’re functioning normally one moment. The next moment, you’ve got flames crawling up the walls of the hospital,” Bill Stanley, hospital spokesman, said.
At first, many hospital staff members thought the fire was just a drill but it soon became clear it was real.
The patients in two nursing units, 5.1 and 5.4 were quickly moved to other areas and patients in the Emergency Department were moved to a makeshift area set up in the ambulatory surgery area. As a result, all elective surgeries and procedures were canceled for the day.
The hospital continued to run on one functioning transformer and three generators.
“One was destroyed yesterday by the fire, another isn’t working properly, so we’re having to rely on the three generators that are providing back up power,” Stanley said.
Sue Harmon, of Pleasantville, New York, was visiting her mother at the hospital when the fire started, she posted on Twitter.
She smelled fire and alerted nurses. Then she saw black smoke out of her mother’s window.
The fire started below Harmon’s mother’s room and it became smoky, so Harmon asked the nurses to get them out, she said.
Like others in the affected area, Harmon was sent to a lounge, away from the scene. Soon, it was full of other people who were at the hospital but it remained calm.
At least 35 firefighters worked at the scene and Connecticut Light & Power crews worked to disengage the transformer box and other electrical equipment nearby.
The fire also knocked out power for 2,400 CL&P customers.