Underground fire bursts through manholes, prompting evacuations in Colorado Springs

(UI) — An underground fire in downtown Colorado Springs early Monday morning led to evacuations and power outages as flames shot up through manholes, causing a significant disruption in the area, The Gazette reported.

Reports of a fire beneath the street at 101 Kiowa Street prompted a swift response from firefighters just before 2:30 a.m., according to information from Gazette news partner KKTV. The caller who alerted dispatchers described flames erupting from a manhole.

According to The Gazette, CSFD Lt. Aaron McConnellogue said, “When our crews first arrived, they found fire coming out of multiple manholes, coming up approximately 10 feet in the air, getting close and impinging on the buildings there.”

Despite the challenges, firefighters successfully prevented the fire from spreading to neighboring buildings, including residences, restaurants, and businesses. Notably, the fire was believed to be located in underground electrical vaults rather than the sewer system, as reported by KKTV.

As of 8:45 a.m., power remained unavailable in the area south of Platte to Pikes Peak, bounded by Tejon and Weber, according to Colorado Springs Utilities' social media update. The restoration timeline remained uncertain as they continued to assess the extent of the outage, with the organization pledging to work diligently and safely to restore power for all affected customers.

In addition to the power outage, traffic signals were rendered inoperative and treated as four-way stops.

“No reason to suspect anything other than equipment failure is responsible” for the explosion as of this time, a spokesperson with Utilities told The Gazette.

Evacuations were limited, with only the Mountain Metro Transit downtown facility at the corner of Kiowa and Nevada, along with the Lofts apartments, being evacuated.

The intensity of the blaze was such that it propelled at least one manhole cover into the air, along with portions of an underground vault.

“We did have with one of the vaults, so it’s in the alleyway in between Nevada and Tejon that runs that alleyway right there where we had multiple manholes with fire coming through those there, blew the cover off and looked like it blew some of that underground vault up in the air there,” McConnellogue told The Gazette.

Firefighters gained control of the blaze early on, and it was declared under control before 4:30 a.m., according to KKTV. Nonetheless, the repercussions extended for hours afterward, with McConnellogue announcing that several nearby streets would remain closed, and buildings in close proximity to the fire were evacuated due to the risk of carbon monoxide exposure.

The Gazette office, situated at 30 E. Pikes Peak Ave., would remain closed until power was fully restored.

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