Sunday, August 15, 2010

Underground Fire Directly Across from Treasury Building

This doesn't appear to be any more than reports indicate, an underground electrical fire, but seeing that it occurred directly across from the Treasury Building that is part of the superblock that includes the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, we'll include it for the record. Here's WaPo:

A column of flame leapt from beneath a downtown Washington sidewalk Saturday night as an underground electrical fire darkened streets near the White House, prompted the evacuation of two hotels and interrupted a wedding reception.

The fire broke out about 7:45 p.m. in the 1400 block of F Street NW, which is occupied by the Willard and W hotels. Electrical equipment below the sidewalk was the source of the blaze.

"It was pretty spectacular," said D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer.

"It sounded like gunshots going off at first then it sounded like a big explosion," said Tom Dahl of New York, a guest at the Willard.

Flames shot about 25 or 30 feet above the pavement, Piringer said. Witnesses said they appeared to subside from time to time, then rose again.

No injuries were reported, but traffic was halted in the blacked-out area, which is a center for dining, tourism and entertainment. Clouds of billowing black smoke rose above rooftops and were visible for miles.

Fire equipment converged on the area, and a crowd gathered to watch from beyond the cordoned-off areas.

It did not appear that the flames damaged nearby buildings, including the two landmark hotels. However, Piringer said the hotels were evacuated as a precaution. In addition to dousing the flames, firefighters sprayed water on buildings to prevent any possible spread of the fire.

Full details of the fire were not immediately available. Piringer said it appeared that it involved a transformer in an underground vault. He attributed the smoke to burning of oil used as insulation.

Pepco spokesman Clay Anderson said the fire involved a cable that fed electricity to the transformer. No specific cause for the fire could be learned as of late Saturday night.

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