Roll N Roaster forced to evacuate after electrical fire outside sends sparks flying

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As many as 100 Con Edison customers in Sheepshead Bay were left without power Friday after four sections of overhead power lines were damaged in a fire near the Emmons Avenue Roll N Roaster restaurant, which was forced to evacuate.

Fire fighters were called to the scene between E. 29th Street and Nostrand Avenue at 11:24 am, where they found what one witness described as a fireworks display of smoke and sparks leaping off the smoldering lines.

From his vantage at the nearby Varuna Boat Club, maintenance worker John Annunziata spotted the blazing spectacle and jogged over to catch a closer look.

“There were sparks like fireworks,” Annunziata recounted. “Con Ed was down there, along with five or six fire engines.”

The damage wasn’t confined to the power poles — nearby piles of Hurricane Sandy debris were set ablaze from the flying sparks, along with a few cars that were scorched in the fiasco, according to Annunziata.

More dramatically, a manhole cover erupted from the ground, flying through the air and landing on a nearby house, leading fire fighters at the scene to speculate that the trouble in the lines might have been brewing underground, according to the boat club crewman.

“Because the sewer lid popped out, it had to start underground, and the only way that could happen is if salt had been eating away at the wires beneath the street and created an explosion,” said Annunziata.

No official word of what cause the fire has emerged from Con Ed, although a spokesman for the energy provider said that salt has been known to eat through power lines and cause problems.

“We don’t have a cause for the fire yet,” said Con Edison spokesman Bob McGee. “Certainly anything related to salt — it wouldn’t necessarily have to have been salt from Sandy, it could have been from the snow storm — can sometimes corrode wires and start a fire.”

Roll N Roaster was forced to evacuate amidst the pyrotechnics, and closed for about half hour before the chefs could resume cooking up their famous cheese fries.

Just as with Hurricane Sandy, the Sheepshead Bay eatery lucked out and remained with power while many on the street were left without. After the storm, Roll N Roaster was up on its feet after two days, while most other business’s along the commercial strip had to wait months before their appliances clicked back on.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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