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PECO Substation Fire Causes Thousands of Power Outages

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Officials continue to search for the cause of a PECO substation fire that left thousands without power in North Philadelphia, Tuesday.

It was a domino effect.

First the enormous fire at the PECO substation on the 2600 block of Westmoreland Street in North Philadelphia, then plumes of thick black smoke followed by mass power outages which caused rush hour gridlock, and finally darkness.

The Philadelphia Fire Department tells CBS3 the fire was reported around 2 p.m. Hazmat teams were also called to the scene.

Heavy smoke caused the evacuation of an apartment complex nearby and residents were asked to shelter in place.

Fire officials had to wait more than three hours for all power to be shut off before they could begin dousing the flames.

"Because the wires were still energized, the fire continued to flash. So, we are going to end up putting the fire out the old-fashioned way with water, but we have to make sure the power is shut down first," said Fire Commissioner Adam Theil.

That was able to happen just before 5 p.m., and shortly after the fire was extinguished.

In the process, tens of thousands were left without power, including portions of Temple University and its hospital.


The outages also affected the Philadelphia High School for Girls on Olney Avenue and EW Rhodes Middle School on Clearfield Street. The two schools will be closed Wednesday and all after school activities have been cancelled.

Businesses and traffic lights near the scene also suffered. Chopper 3 caught the mayhem over the six lane intersection at West Hunting Park Avenue and Allegheny.

There have been no reported injuries.

Power was slowly being restored to the area Tuesday night but much of it still remained in darkness.

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