Cars, building torched following transformer fire in Watertown

WATERTOWN, MASS. (WHDH) - A transformer fire spread to two cars and a nearby building in Watertown Tuesday evening as temperatures soared into the mid-90s.

Crews responding to a two-alarm fire on Clarendon Street near Berkeley Street just after 5 p.m. were greeted by thick smoke and heavy flames.

Jason Gee, the owner of Crossfit Arsenal, the exercise group renting the building that caught fire, said he and several others were working out when a power pole with a transformer attached fell on top of cars in their parking lot.

“You want to make sure everybody’s OK,” Gee said. “That’s the only thing that is important.”

He says everyone ran out of the back door of the building before the fire spread.

“I just want to take care of my people, you know,” Gee explained. “I have employees, I have a family, I’ve got a lot of people in this community that are really invested in our project, and I just want to make sure that I take care of them.”

Video from Sky7 HD showed several firefighters soaking the charred cars with water and what appeared to be a burned out garage.

Watertown fire crews approached the fire with caution.

“It caused a lot of power issues, a lot of explosions from the high power lines that were impacted by the pole coming down, and it was pretty risky in the beginning,” Fire Chief Robert Quinn said. “(We) had to wait until the power was out so that we could make sure our crews were safe.”

Several homes on Clarendon Street temporarily lost power, causing some families to find somewhere else to stay for the night.

“The most disappointing part of it is that this telephone pole fell and started the fire, and we called the pole in because it was leaning on Friday and nobody responded to that, so I feel like this could have been prevented if someone would have done that,” Gee said.

Neighbors agreed with Gee’s point.

“This could have been prevented,” Mary Da Silva said. “This could have taken lives. Thank God there was a back entrance that these people were able to get out.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation.