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Underground electrical fire closes downtown streets

Mike Desmond

An underground electrical fire at Franklin and Tupper Streets in downtown Buffalo resulted in the closing of streets and evacuation of buildings on Sunday afternoon.Traffic was rerouted and minor explosions were reported. The Buffalo Fire Department dispatched two engine and one ladder crews to the site, where National Grid personnel began working to cut off power to the affected area.

The fire was reported around noon on Sunday, when smoke was seen pouring out of manhole covers.

While the cause could not be initially determined, National Grid Spokesman, Steve Brady, explained, “What can happen is, if a cable or other material in the conduit – the underground conduit and the manholes – if it burns fast enough and hot enough, the smoke will build up enough pressure that if forces – it’s got to go somewhere – and it forces the manhole covers up.”

Residents were evacuated from nearby buildings as a precaution. Brady said no one was hurt as a result of the incident.

National Grid took environmental considerations into effect. Brady said anything in the manholes or that came out of them would be monitored. Environmental technicians and safety directors were on-scene to assess the hazards and any damage to city streets or nearby buildings. Brady said the company's first priority was removing damaged electrical lines and replacing them with new cable.