NBC10.com - Jesse Gary
NBC10's Jesse Gary reports that crews have yet to determine what caused an underground fire that cut power to a Center City apartment building.
Residents had to evacuate a Center City apartment building early Wednesday due to smoke from an underground electrical fire as nearby roads were blocked off during the investigation.
An overnight gas leak in the area, unrelated to the fire, complicated the situation.
The Oakwood Apartments at 16th and Sansom Streets were evacuated around 3:30 a.m. after smoke got into the ducts after an apparent underground cable fire, firefighters said.
Philadelphia Gas Works spokesman Barry O'Sullivan says crews were looking into the reported gas leak when they had to stop because of problem with a PECO transformer. He said there was no risk from the leak.
"We tested the quality of the air and found it to be a benign situation where there was no gas leak and not enough gas in the particular area to cause any danger," Philadelphia Fire Department Lt. Bernard Gilliam said.
Thirty-seven residents were allowed back in their homes briefly only to be evacuated again. The building has a generator but it only supplies enough power to keep the lobby lit and elevators moving.
Some residents were placed at the nearby Shops at Liberty Place or rode out the evacuation in their cars. Around 10 evacuees were taken to the nearby Greenfield Elementary School later in the morning.
No one was hurt.
As of 5 a.m., PECO crews were still trying to pinpoint the location of the smoke but seemed to be focused on an underground transformer that was possibly on fire.
At one point up to 764 customers were without power, by 11 a.m. 12 still didn't have power.
By 5:30 a.m., PGW crews stopped the gas leak, PECO and firefighters contained the underground fire and crews began to pull back. No cause was immediately given on what caused the incidents.
Street closures continued through the morning at the intersection of 16th and Sansom. At one point, Sansom was closed at 15th Street, 15th was closed from Chestnut to Walnut Streets and 16th Street was closed between Locust and Sansom Streets.
The roads remained closed as of 11 a.m. as crews tried to figure out what caused the blaze.