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Transformer Causes Fire In PPG Place Tower, Fire Officials Question Evacuation

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It was the peak of the Tuesday evening rush hour when the PPG Tower, at 1 PPG Place in Downtown Pittsburgh, was ordered evacuated by building security.

The reason - a small fire on the top floor of the tower.

Deputy Pittsburgh Fire Chief Michael Mullen said, "The building discovered a fire in a transformer on the 41st floor, it's a mechanical equipment room."

The fire was first reported around 5:30 p.m., and automatically went to a two-alarm call because it was in a high-rise structure.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Security personnel in the building used a dry chemical extinguisher to put the blaze out, even before fire units arrived on scene.

"The transformer spilled some oil, so the case must have ruptured. There was a small fire," said Chief Mullen. "There were some reports that people heard a loud banging noise, a crashing noise."

As employees streamed out of the building, there was some confusion about what had happened, and why everyone was leaving.

"Her voice sounded pretty urgent, so we all left," said Linda Lenz, of Whitaker, who works in the building. "I was nervous, I didn't want to be in there with, of course, a fire. So I gathered everything I had and left."

Joud Mansour told KDKA-TV News, "We were asked to evacuate. They said it was a bomb threat."

While some people took elevators down to the ground floor, Jennifer Faines said she walked down 31 flights of stairs.

"Initially, we heard the alarm go off, the person on the loudspeaker was saying something garbled, saying this was an emergency situation," Faines said. "We headed straight for the steps. Actually, some of our folks on the 31st floor tried to go down the elevator, but it was shut off already."

Meghan Schiller's Report:

Deputy Fire Chief Mullen questioned the decision to evacuate the entire building.

He told KDKA-TV, "that was a little bit of a snafu with building security ordering the building fully evacuated. When there's a fire that high in the building, there's no need to evacuate people well below the incident who are not in danger. It actually works against us. It puts people coming out in the way, and it congests things."

No injuries were reported.


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