Update at 11:30 p.m. Thursday: The affected roads were re-opened to the public at around 10:15 p.m. PSE&G workers on scene said they believe the businesses near the movie theater will be able to open in the morning. Public Service employees will be working round the clock to fix/replace the transformer.
Original article: Firefighters closed East Ridgewood Avenue between Maple Avenue and Walnut Street after an underground transformer malfunctioned, sending columns of smoke into the air Thursday evening.
Police on the scene believed a transformer exploded and began arcing sometime around 6 p.m.
Smoke could be seen billowing from a pair of grates on the sidewalk a few steps from the and the air in the busy heart of the Ridgewood shopping district was choked with the smell of burning rubber.
About 20 people were evacuated from the theater, Cupcakes by Carousel and Joailier jewelry store, police said.
Firefighters using thermal cameras confirmed that fire hadn't spread to businesses along East Ridgewood Avenue, according to Ridgewood Fire Lieutenant Greg Hillerman.
Hillerman said that earlier in the day a crew had been working underground near Maple Avenue in Ridgewood; electricity was shut off briefly as a result. It's likely that when they flipped the switch back on later in the day something went awry.
"Sometimes these switches haven't been thrown for 10 to 15 years," Hillerman said. "You flick them once and they go."
PSE&G may ask firemen to stay on the scene to cool down the underground equipment before they attach a small crane to transformer and haul it out for repairs, Hillerman said.
Initial reports indicate that no one was injured as a result of the underground fire.
Vehicle traffic would likely be shut down until at least 8:30 p.m., Hillerman said, but pedestrian traffic is moving along on the opposite side of East Ridgewood Ave.
PSE&G, Ridgewood Ambulance Corps and the Ridgewood Police Department were also on the scene.