Underground Fire Causes Power Outages in Hartford, West Hartford

Thousands of customers in Hartford and West Hartford started their Easter in the dark after an underground fire in Hartford early Sunday morning and many remain without power Sunday night.

At the height of the outages, 13,000 Eversource customers were without power. The numbers fluctuated throughout the day. As of 2:26 p.m., 1,599 remained without power in Hartford and 31 customers in West Hartford still didn't have power, according to the Eversource outage map. By 3:12 p.m., power outages surged to 3,902 in Hartford and 489 in West Hartford. As of 11 p.m., outages were back up to 3,827 in West Hartford and 9,165 in Hartford.

Fire crews responded to the 400 block of Farmington Avenue near the Sherman Street intersection in Hartford at about 12:10 a.m. Sunday after smoke was reported coming out of a manhole.

According to Hartford Deputy Fire Chief Peter Towey, an explosion occurred, causing a fire to break out in an underground utility vault. Thick, dark smoke could be seen billowing out Sunday morning as flames melted several underground cables. 

"We isolated the area," Towey said Sunday morning. "Eversource was able to shut down service to the vault, and the fire at this point has been extinguished, minus some smoldering which we’re working on addressing at this time.”

Eversource shut down power to the surrounding neighborhoods in Hartford and West Hartford, which affected some restaurants in Hartford and West Hartford Center. As crews assessed the damage, they realized it would take longer than first thought to get the power back on. After originally predicting the power would be back on by 11 a.m., Eversource updated the estimated time of restoration to 9 p.m. However, as of 11 p.m. thousands were still without power.

While neighbors didn't necessarily see or hear the fire and explosion, they felt the effects with the long duration power outage.

"Very stressful. Very, very stressful, " Walter Scott, of Hartford, said.

The power outages could mean a lot of money lost and holiday food inventory wasted for restaurants affected that were expecting a surge in customers for Easter. If you had plans to eat with your family in West Hartford Center, many of the restaurants are closed because of the power problem. One of them was A'vert Brasserie on LaSalle Road in West Hartford, which was fully booked with reservations for brunch and dinner and had to shut down the restaurant and cancel all reservations due to the issue.

The owner of a 24-hour Subway in the area said he stood to lose $4,000 between lost revenue and spoiled food.

“I’m really upset because we have a busy night on Saturday and now I’m losing that too because of power," Subway owner Raj Patel said.

Some got ready for Sunday services in the dark during the morning outages.

“I had to get a candle and a flashlight out," Icina Nicholas, of Hartford, said. "....I need to get breakfast. My milk is spoiled. So, I have to take it out, everything I have to throw out.”

Several blocks of Farmington Ave. in Hartford remain closed to give crews the space they need to make repairs.

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