Power restored in downtown Chattanooga after underground electrical fire

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ Downtown Chattanooga is seen in this view looking south along Broad Street from a parking garage. RiverCity Co. is hiring consultants to help study ways to energize the riverfront from Fourth Street to the River, including Hawk Hill. The area was photographed on December 5, 2019.

UPDATE: According to EPB, power was restored to all customers that experienced an electric outage except the Ben & Jerry's building, which is in the immediate vicinity of the incident. The building is expected to regain power by late Wednesday night.

A spokesperson said the fire was the result of an equipment failure in an underground electrical vault. There is no way to determine the ultimate cause of the failure.

EPB routinely inspects all the equipment in the downtown area and across the system and proactively replaces equipment when potential problems are identified.

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Parts of downtown Chattanooga, including about 500 EPB customers, are without power and fiber optic services due to a Tuesday evening fire in an underground electrical vault at Broad Street and Aquarium Way, according to a news release from EPB.

Power has been cut to a 6-block radius around where the incident occurred, from Memorial Auditorium on McCallie Avenue down to 601 Walnut St., then from 6th Street to Aquarium Way, including Market, Broad and Chestnut streets. People should avoid the area if possible due to nonworking traffic lights.

Chattanooga firefighters responded to the 200 block of Broad Street at 8:17 p.m. and reported flames and sparks coming out of the ground through grates. Firefighters used several dry chemical extinguishers to suppress the fire until power was cut to the transformers. More dry chemicals were used to fully extinguish the fire before water was used to cool everything down so EPB could assess the damage, according to a Chattanooga Fire Department news release.

The damaged electrical vault may not be cooled off enough for EPB to begin repair work until Wednesday morning. In the meantime, EPB is working on undamaged electrical vaults that will help quicken power restoration once the damaged vault is accessible. Impacted customers are being notified by EPB and will be provided with more information as repairs progress, the release states.

No power outages were reported in any of the Tennessee Aquarium buildings, according to aquarium spokesman Thom Benson.

No injuries or other damage have been reported. No information is currently known about the cause of the fire.

- Compiled by Kim Sebring