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Crews Battle Electrical Fire In Downtown Dallas

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) -A three-alarm fire in Downtown Dallas forced the evacuation of a swanky hotel and the loss of electrical power to several blocks of downtown that effected both businesses and residents.

"The alarms went off about 3 o'clock in the morning telling everyone it was an emergency, exit the hotel through the stairwell," said Kenyetta Peterson, a visitor from Chicago.  "I was on the tenth floor and we had to run down the stairs."

Peterson was among nearly 150 guests to be evacuated from the Jouel Hotel.  An electrical transformer blew underneath the Jouel's adjoining restaurant, CDB Provisions, and flames shot up into the sky.

"I was scared because I really didn't know if it was the building was going to explode, you just didn't know," Peterson said.

The fire broke out in an underground electrical vault.  The 54 firefighters who answered couldn't put water on it so they had to get ONCOR to shut off power before they could snuff it out.  They downplayed any immediate danger.
"It was impressive," said Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Johnson, "but it was mostly show; a confined space, pressure buildup, it pushed a lot of flames out of the hole."

ONCOR wound up shutting off electricity to a 5-block area, including Dallas City Hall, which houses 911 dispatchers and the Office of Emergency Management.  Johnson said there were no hitches.  "Well, of course we've got backup systems and my understanding is the backup systems were working and I haven't heard any reports of any problems there."

Fire officials say the hotel  did not catch fire, but the facade and a canopy on the restaurant were scorched and windows damaged.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Jouel guests were evacuated to the Magnolia Hotel, but residents in suddenly powerless high-rises had to fend for themselves.  So A.J. Mistry took a walk.  "I had to walk about nine flights of stairs down; it was a little bit tedious at times but you get used to it, right?" he asked then added, "Just another day in the life."

Power was restored by mid-morning.

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