Crews battle underground fire in downtown Youngstown

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The sight of steam coming from manholes in downtown Youngstown is a common sight this time of year -- but smoke is something else entirely

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A fire in downtown Youngstown left quite a mess for firefighters, Ohio Edison workers and some businesses Thursday morning.

The sight of steam coming from manholes in downtown Youngstown is a common sight this time of year — but smoke is something else entirely.

“Something happened, shorted out or something, and caused a fire,” said Battalion Chief Sil Caggiano.

A high voltage electrical line was burning underground at the corner of W. Federal and Phelps streets around 9:30 a.m.

Once Ohio Edison workers were able to turn the power off, crews used fire extinguishers to knock out the flames.

They said the situation could have been worse.

“If it was down in a hole and on fire, we’d have both the problem with it being on fire and also being a confined space,” Caggiano said. “That would present a double problem.”

Although it took a number of extinguishers to do the job, they put the fire out quickly and no one hurt.

About 20 Ohio Edison customers were without power for three or four hours, including the Downtown Circle convenience store and the offices of First Educators Investment Corporation, where workers were forced to close for the day.

“This line’s older so it’s kind of hit-or-miss as to what buildings are still connected to it,” Caggiano said. “A lot of them…have upgraded to a newer system. Some of the older buildings haven’t.”

We learned a number of other buildings had some smoke drifting into their basements but they never lost power and did not have to close.

This was the second outage downtown Thursday morning. The first happened around 4:30. Ohio Edison said all of the affected customers had the power back by early afternoon.

It’s unclear at this time whether the power outages are related.

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