Underground fire causes power failure at superblock

An underground power line exploded Tuesday, causing brief power outages.

An underground power line failed on the University campus Tuesday, causing an underground fire.

Smoke rose from an Oak Street Southeast manhole Tuesday afternoon in front of McNamara Alumni Center.

Initially uncertain of the cause of the smoke, the fire department blocked off the area of Oak Street between Washington and University avenues southeast.

Xcel Energy officials said a cable under the street exploded, causing the fire.

The failed power line caused power outages in the superblock area.

Power went out in Territorial Hall about 12:50 p.m., said administrative assistant Mari Maack-Magnusson. The power remained out until 1:15 p.m., and then went out again about 1:40 p.m.

Other residence halls in the superblock also experienced power loss, Maack-Magnusson said.

The power was not out for long because several power lines supply the University, said Ed Legge, spokesman for Xcel Energy.

Legge said he did not know what caused the failure because Xcel controls the power only until it reaches the customer.

“It’s kind of like a large-scale version of what happens at your house,” Legge said. “We aren’t in control of any effects within your house.”

University officials were aware of the fire and power outages, but did not provide any information on the cause.

The fire was not large and was put out within an hour, Xcel Energy officials said.

“Like any electrical power failure it can be kind of spectacular,” Legge said, “which is why there was fire and smoke.”