Around 6 p.m. today, Ray Dinitto of 17 John St., came home to his second-floor apartment and reported opening the door to a “puff of smoke.”
Dinitto found his miniature poodle, Gracie, nearly passing out under a table. He immediately checked to make sure the gas was off and then searched the house for the source of both the smoke and growing smell of electrical fire.
After coming up empty, Dinitto went down to the first floor and alerted neighbor Jane Kearney who confirmed that she also smelled something burning. Kearney has one daughter, Maeve, 8 and a son, 5. Her daughter and a neighbor were most concerned about leaving Maeve's American Girl dolls inside the home while fire fighters searched for the heat source.
Branford Companies, , and arrived on scene to the home near the Branford Green just behind and within minutes had flooded the home looking for a fire. Connecticut Light & Power also arrived about 15 minutes later to kill the power to the home.
Deputy Chief John Masci was able to report that after about 40 minutes of investigation, a hot wire was found on the second floor of the three-story home. Using a thermal imaging camera, Masci said the firefighters located a hot spot of about 90 degrees in the front left corner of the home. Firefighters proceeded to knock down a wall and part of the ceiling to find the source of the heat.
Peter Ramon, who lives in the house in front of 17 John St., said his family had owned the 1898 home for at least the last 100 years. His elderly aunt, 97, and uncle, 89, were the last ones to inhabit the home before they sold the house to the current owner who resides in Killingworth, last year. To the best of Ramon’s knowledge, there wasn’t excessive use of appliances or electronics while his family lived there.
According to Masci, firefighters found electrical wire from the 1800s to current day inside the walls of the home when they began knocking them down. The source of the problem, reported Masci, was BX wire from about the 1950s.
“The wires get hot,” he stated, “and sometimes they reach their limit.”
Masci believes the recent compounded with using appliances like fans and air conditioners could have caused the wires to work overtime and overheat.
Though Dinitto has not had any issue with his electricity, Kearney said that her electric on the first floor was “popping” since yesterday and “flickering.”
The Branford Building Inspector deemed the home uninhabitable for this evening, displacing the two tenants temporarily. Connecticut Light & Power will not restore electricity to the home until an electrician comes out and inspects the source of the issue.
No one in the two surrounding apartment buildings was affected by the incident other than having the small street temporarily blocked. No one was hurt as a result of the incident.