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Second underground fire in 24 hours disrupts traffic

Posted: 5:56 PM, Sep 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-25 22:46:27Z

Part of N. Charles Street is still closed after the second underground fire there in 24 hours. BGE crews say the situation is under control and they are more than halfway done replacing the cable. 

"The smoke has been everywhere but it's been kind of quiet and them just trying to fix everything," Ghia Stoddard said.

Quiet compared to what happened outside Stoddard's downtown workplace last night. 

"There was a big fire and a lot of smoke," Stoddard said.

A underground transformer caught on fire and at least 4 manholes to explode.

"A huge boom, everything kind of rumbled and then all of the sudden people started running," Stoddard said

BGE crews de-energized that cable on fire under N. Charles Street near East Lexington Street and then they replaced most of it, but an old part remained underground. Then, as crews were venting it and getting ready to remove the rest, it re-ignited. 

"It's already warm, potentially smoldering, and due to some debris down there underground, it ignited it. It's almost like feeding oxygen to it," BGE spokesman Justin Mulcahy said. 

He said BGE has the situation under control. They have to keep venting it before pulling the full cable out but they aren't sure how long part of the road will have to be closed. Mulcahy says a cable replacement is very labor-intensive and time-consuming. 

"They have to get into the manhole to be able to safely access a location. They have to use equipment to pull out the cable and then ultimately use equipment to pull in the new cable," Mulcahy said. 

BGE is not sure what caused the initial fire Monday night. There are a lot of utilities that run underground near the intersection. They hope to remove the cable Tuesday and put the new cable in Wednesday.