Published in the August 16, 2017 edition


WAKEFIELD — There were no injuries, but a high-rise apartment building on Audubon Road had to be evacuated for several hours last night after a fire in an electrical panel caused the entire building to lose power.
While Wakefield firefighters were busy with a brush fire deep in the woods off Hemlock Road, a call came in at about 7:15 p.m. that an electrical fire had knocked out power at the Colonial Point apartment building. Two Wakefield Fire units responded immediately to 95 Audubon Rd. where they found smoke coming from the main electrical room in the building. They were able to shut the main power off inside the building and requested that the Light Department also cut the power from the street.
A fire lieutenant on the scene called for additional help and engines from Reading, Stoneham and Lynnfield also responded. The Wakefield units at Hemlock Road were also able to break away and went to the scene. Four Action Ambulance units arrived and set up triage units outside to check on residents who were by now exiting the building.
According to Fire Chief Michael Sullivan, once power was cut to the building firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire in the building’s large electrical panel, bur major damage was done to the panel. The property owner, the Carabetta Companies, was notified and sent their electrician, who in turn called an electrical contractor that specializes in heavy electrical repairs, Sullivan said.
Eventually, repair crews succeeded in bypassing the burned-out electrical panel and the Municipal Gas and Light Department was able to turn the power to the building back on at around 11 p.m. Sullivan said that because they were able to restore power as quickly as they did, it was possible to get the elevators running again and residents were able to return to their apartments. He said that the town was prepared to open the Wakefield Memorial High School or the Galvin Middle School as temporary shelters if necessary.
Sullivan recognized the Wakefield Police Department for their assistance in cordoning off the area and handling traffic and crowd-control throughout the incident. The Red Cross also responded, the fire chief said, and distributed food and water to residents outside the building. He noted that there were a number of residents who were older and had medication issues as well as parents with very young children.
Sullivan said that units from North Reading and Melrose covered Wakefield fire headquarters during the incident. The last Wakefield unit left the fire scene around midnight, but a fire detail remained overnight as a precaution to monitor the situation. The building owner was expected to have major repairs done immediately.
The fire chief had high praise for the light department, which remained on scene throughout the incident. He also recognized Action Ambulance and Wiring Inspector David Sardella for assisting at the scene. Chief Sullivan also noted that Rehab Five, a volunteer organization that supports fire service in the region, sent a crew to assist.