Our website is down to a huge fire in the Baltimore area were I NOC is located. We will not be getting email or anything for a fewdays it looks till the lines are repaired.
Baltimoresun.com staff and wire reports
Originally published September 20, 2004, 9:50 AM EDT
An underground fire overnight forced street closures near City Hall and knocked out traffic lights at some downtown intersections, fire officials said, closing both courthouses for Baltimore City Circuit Court for the day and giving some city employees at least the morning off.
The fire was reported about 1 a.m. at Guilford Avenue and Fayette Street, according to city Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright. It blew out four or five manhole covers in the area, and firefighters found smoke and flames shooting from one of the manholes.
Cartwright said the fire was out before the morning rush hour, but flames damaged high-powered electric cables underground, including a cable that feeds the traffic light system.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews were on the scene and managing the electric problems. It was unclear when the malfunctioning traffic lights would be back in service.
According to city police, Charles Street was closed to Monument Street; Fallsway was closed to Baltimore Street; and Fayette Street was closed between Gay and Charles streets.
The cause of the fire was under investigation, Cartwright said. There were no reports of injuries or serious traffic problems.
Drivers at intersections with Charles Street, the city's main northbound avenue, that did not have working lights stopped before moving forward to check for oncoming traffic and pedestrians. At other intersections, police officers directed traffic.
"It's moving smoothly -- drivers have gotten into a rhythm," said David Brown, spokesman for the city Department of Transportation.
BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy said power had been cut to some buildings in the area, and those customers may not get power back before noon today.
There was no electricity at City Hall, the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, the Peabody Institute and other buildings in the area, Foy said.
"It's only bright in here because the sun is shining," said Foy, who was at City Hall. She did not know how many BGE customers were affected.
Foy also said the cause of the fire was unclear. Crews were working to make the underground area safe so they could take a good look at the damage and determine the extent and cause of the fire.
Nonessential city employees who work in the buildings within an area bounded by Monument Street, Fallsway, and Baltimore and Charles streets were initially told by Mayor Martin O'Malley's office to stay home today. Later, they were told to monitor radio and television broadcasts because they might be ordered to report at noon.
All other city employees should report as usual.
Both Courthouse East and the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City were closed for the day because of the fire and resulting electric problems. Jurors summoned to Circuit Court had the day off because of the power outage at the Mitchell courthouse, said Rita Beyer, a spokeswoman with the court information office