It was barely larger than a garden shed but when the electrical sub-station on Semilong Road in Northampton burst into flames it plunged hundreds of homes into darkness.
Fourteen hours later there were still issues getting everyone’s power restored but engineers for Western Power Distribution had been able to reconnect supply for some by directly linking cables that had fed into and out of the sub-station.
It is not yet clear what caused the fire at the sub-station which was relatively new, a much older sub-station had been replaced with a development of flats and a newer facility immediately in front of them.
Windows on the flats, which were doused with cooling water by the fire service during the blaze to prevent the fire spreading, were shattered by the heat of the blaze.
A fast response fire car, two fire engines, an ambulance and paramedic and a police vehicle as well as several WPD vans were assembled at the junction of Hester Street and Semilong Road until the early hours of Friday morning.
Householders reported power flickering then a few seconds later cutting out completely. Shortly afterwards fire engines arrived on the scene and began tackling the flames which engulfed the sub-station.
The Co-op store immediately next door was forced to close and many nearby residents were on the street in their nightwear watching the emergency services carry out their work.
The power outtage had far reaching effects through the NN1 and NN2 postcodes. Police stopped traffic coming down Hester Street but the road is a main route into Semilong which is a maze of interlocking one way streets partly designed to prevent curb crawling near the Grafton Street industrial state.
One father of a newborn said: “We’ve got a 21 day old baby, we’ve got no power to sterilise bottles or warm water. We are going to have to go to my parents but we can’t work out how we are going to get out of Semilong at the moment!”
A police officer offered to lead the way but then had to take advice from a colleague about the best route to follow.
The JHoots chemist in Semilong Road was unable to open this morning because the power cut had locked its security shutters in place.
A homeowner in Hester Street said: “Our lights kind of flickered, then there was a kind of buzzing sound and they went out completely.”
The fire was extinguished around 11pm and WPD engineers had to wait until the remnants of the sub-station were cool enough to work on before they could start restoring power.
WPD is using its Twitter account @WPDuk to give updates on the restoration of power, A damaged cable on the low voltage network is delaying some properties getting their power back until 4pm.