Big flaming mess on Needham Street in Newton

Prius meets its end quickly. Photo by Newton FD.Prius and SUV meet their end quickly. Photo by Newton FD.

Electrical wires, a strip-mail building and at least two cars all managed to catch fire in the same incident at 244 Needham St. today that resulted in a two-alarm response from the Newton, Needham and Boston fire departments. The Newton Fire Department reports that because of the presence of live wires, it couldn't do anything about the flaming autos until after NStar had shut off the electricity.

Car part of the fire. Photo by Dana Worby-Robinson.Photo by Dana Worby-Robinson.



Free tagging: 


    10 seconds? No it wouldn't.

    Removing power to large parts of cities is a serious matter. Removing power doesn't just turn off lights. It also has the possible consequence of turning of life support systems, and systems used for emergency services.

    As Swirly pointed out, that is some serious responsibility.

    Pretty much.

    Once the power is removed from the lines, they still maintain a static charge. You're talking about very high voltage. In your home it's about 120VAC, out on the street, it can be tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of volts AC. The current in these lines is also tremendously high.

    Critical equipment does need to have battery backup, this is true. National Grid knows this as well, and has a program for this type of situation. This requires people to notify the provider, National Grid in this case, of any equipment of this type. In an event where power needs to be removed, registered critical support customers are notified, and need to have batteries capable of sustaining an outage for the planned length of time. Or they need to plan on leaving the area.

    Removing power from the grid is not nearly as simple as flipping a switch.

    The strip mall is former

    The strip mall is former warehouses, now partitioned off into businesses. That building has a Starbucks & New England Soup Factory on Needham Street, then going back are Splash, an empty spot, a nail salon, & a Verizon Fios store. Across the sidestreet is TJ Maxx, formerly Linen & Things. Fox & Hounds is the property owner.

    The power lines are heavy duty for Stark in back of the strip mall; they do metal machining & other industrial work. They haven't had a fire recently, but in the past there have been some significant incidents. There's also been ongoing electrical problems in the neighborhood as Needham Street is rebuilt from below up, including an underground explosion directly in front of the Starbucks two years ago.

    Fortunately, in this case, there's a set of outside stairs leading from the sidestreet directly to the roof of the building on fire. I used to call the cops about it occasionally 'cause kids would go up the stairs & be playing ball, running close to the edge, etc.

    My suspicion is the wires just got hot, between cooling Stark & it being hot outside, drooped, and hit the hot asphalt on the roof. It was re-tarred last summer so there is likely plenty to burn.

    (I used to manage the T-Mobile directly across from Splash.)

    That explains all the out-of-town fire apparatus

    Well that would explain why I saw a Boston FD truck screaming down Centre St. in Newton Centre around 3:10 and why I saw a Brookline Fire truck on its way toward that area. I figured it must have been something interesting.

    That Splash showroom has a lot of pricey stuff. I can't tell if there's a lot of damage there, but if there is, their insurer is about to take a hit.


    Reinsurers insure insurance companies. Like, if there's a natural disaster and the insurance companies have to make a huge dollar amount of payouts because of one catastrophic event? The kind of payouts that could bankrupt an insurance company? They go to their reinsurers, who have issued the insurance company insurance against large losses like this. Swiss Re is one of the biggest names in reinsurance.

    Reinsurers are something that's pretty much unknown to people not in the insurance business. They got some discussion in the news after 9/11 because the dollar amount of property damage, injury, and loss of life that was done by the terrorist attacks was sufficiently large for reinsurance to kick in.