California Firefighters Respond to Underground Blasts

Officials say an electrical fire could be to blame.


A series of underground explosions in an electrical vault caused some scattered power outages and traffic problems in downtown Sacramento Monday.
The first muffled blast was reported in the area of 7th and H streets at 9:25 a.m. Another round occurred at about 11 a.m.
The blasts sent manhole covers flying and caused small puffs of smoke to rise above the sidewalk.
Sacramento firefighters, light rail workers and Sacramento Municipal Utility District officials were called in to investigate the resulting electrical fire. Capt. Jim Doucette said the exact cause of the fire was unclear.
As of noon, power was out at City Hall and the California Environmental Protection Agency building. At one point, the outage affected more than 1,000 SMUD customers.
"We've had a number of shorts due to the line needing some repair. As we were testing to specify where that problem is happening, it continues to short out," SMUD spokeswoman Dace Udris said.
Officials said no injuries were reported and damage was limited to the underground vault.
Fire crews finally had to spray foam into the vault to get the fire out. A SMUD troubleshooter then climbed down into the vault to end the emergency.
"They're essentially grounding six large underground cables to make sure there's no power in them. Now that there's no power in the vault, it's no longer a hazard," Sacramento Fire Department Battalion Chief Niko King said.
H Street between Seventh and Eighth streets was shut down for several hours to allow crews to fix the problem.