The Watertown Fire Department faced flames, live electrical wires, and heat in the 90s when they battled the blaze in East Watertown Tuesday evening.
The two-alarm fire was reported at 4:47 p.m. when a utility pole with an electrical transformer on top fell on cars outside 39 Clarendon Street, said Watertown Provisional Fire Chief Bob Quinn.
“The pole coming down was the main cause of the fire,” Quinn said. “The pole there was weathered and landed on two cars. The fire started and burned up three cars pretty good.”
The building 39 Clarendon St., which is occupied by Crossfit Arsenal, also caught fire, and the front portion was completely destroyed while there was smoke and water damage in the entire building. Also, three more cars near those that burned also suffered damage from the heat of the flames, Quinn said.
Quinn noted that the call came in quickly because people were inside the gym working out at the time. Everyone got out safely but some people lost gym bags and cellphones in the blaze.
“Fortunately, because of the time of day we were notified quickly,” Quinn said. “If it had been 2 in the morning it would have taken longer.”
Clarendon is a densely built up side street off of Arlington Street. Quinn recalled fighting a fire in one of the homes across the street 14 years ago.
“The homes are like five feet apart,” Quinn said. “It is a tight area down there. The side where (Tuesday’s) fire was is commercial.”
While crews arrived on scene quickly, firefighting efforts were delayed by the downed wires.
“With the high tension (power) wires, we couldn’t be certain if they was live electricity,” said Quinn, who said Eversource was called to make sure power was off.
The extreme temperatures also made the effort more difficult. Deputy Fire Chief Rob Iannetta, who had command of the scene, called a second alarm, and assistance came from fire departments in Cambridge, Newton, Waltham and Belmont, as well as from Professional Ambulance.
Also, the Boston Sparks A-10 came to provide cold water, fans and other things to cool firefighters, Quinn said.
Clean Harbors also responded to the scene, Quinn said, because it was not clear whether the transformer contained PCBs.