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4 Manholes Explode Following Underground Fire In Downtown Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Charles Street reopened in downtown Baltimore Tuesday night, one day after an underground electrical fire caused major problems.

The fire caused four manhole covers to fly into the air and injured a paramedic. It's the third underground fire on Charles Street this year.

"Our number one priority is to make sure people are safe," said fire department spokeswoman Blair Skinner.

Skinner said the paramedic suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Two fire trucks were also damaged and a building was evacuated out of precaution there could be high carbon monoxide levels.

"I just heard a big boom. It seemed like the world was exploding," said Tammy Campbell.

She told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren the windows of her hotel room rattled.

"All you saw was smoke and fire trucks," Kenny Campbell told WJZ.

Hellgren reported the fire flared up again around noon on Tuesday, as acrid yellow smoke rose from a manhole at Lexington and Charles.

The fire department insisted it was not dangerous.

"We got an email saying there was no danger. I don't know how they determined that," said Kathleen Carroll, who works downtown. "It makes you wonder what is going on underneath all of us."

The previous fires were four blocks away near Lombard and Charles in both February and June.

BGE said in Monday's incident, an underground electrical cable caught fire. It may have been caused by damage from steam. It will be up to the city to determine the final cause. "It remains under investigation," Skinner said.

Baltimore has a 15-mile system of steam pipes downtown that provide hot steam to various buildings.

Last year, a pipe exploded not far from Camden Yards sending steam gushing into the air and damaging more than 30 cars.

That steam pipe was wrapped in cancer-causing asbestos.

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