In the 40 years that Jim Richards has served as the city’s fire chief, he’d never seen anything like what he and 13 other firefighters responded to near Alexia’s Pizza Monday afternoon, Dec. 6, he said.

At about 1:30 p.m., Richards said, firefighters were called to an electrical fire near the corner of Main and High streets in downtown Belfast.

Richards said the electrical meter, which is located on the exterior of the brick building that houses the pizza restaurant, had shorted out. Along with causing damage to the meter head and some aluminum piping, Richards said, it also blew the transformer on the pole near the building.

“It was quite hot for a time there,” said Richards, noting that 13 firefighters responded to the call.

Arcing electrical currents jumping from the pole to the affected meter head were what caught the attention of a City Hall employee, who called the fire department to report the unusual phenomenon. The sight was so unusual, in fact, that it was a first for Richards, who has been the city’s fire chief for about 40 years.

“It was like a big arc welder, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.

Businesses such as Alexia’s Pizza and Weaver’s Bakery lost power as a result, but as of about 3:30 p.m., Richards said, Central Maine Power had left the scene after making necessary repairs. Richards added that the power company responded quickly, with line crews arriving at the scene at the same time as members of the fire department.

Richards said he was glad the electrical problem was detected when it was, noting that had it happened in the middle of the night the outcome might have been much worse.

“We were back [at the fire station] by five minutes of two. Everything went good,” he said.

Once the electrical problem was under control, Richards said, firefighters remained on the scene to clear smoke out of the cellar and to check a second electrical breaker with a thermal imaging camera to make sure there were no additional fire hazards.