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State Street lane reopens after underground fire

State Street lane reopens after underground fire

Mayor: Caused by water shorting out electrical system
State Street lane reopens after underground fire
The scene on State Street in Schenectady on March 30, 2017.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — Part of State Street was to remain shut overnight after an underground utility tunnel fire caused authorities to cordon off a portion of the thoroughfare early Thursday.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said the fire was caused by water shorting out an electrical system. National Grid repairmen had to pump water out of the utility tunnel before making repairs, he said.

The work was originally expected to be done early Thursday afternoon, McCarthy said, but the westbound lane didn't open until after 7 p.m. The eastbound lane was to be closed through the night. 

Businesses along a portion of State Street, from Broadway to Clinton Street, had power interruptions during the fire and subsequent repair work.

Schenectady County Community College canceled all classes at its Center City location due to the power interruptions, according to a statement from the college.

The fire broke out about 3 a.m. Thursday and smoldered well into the morning commute, fire officials said. One manhole cover was launched 15 feet in the air, officials said.

Video of the manhole explosion was caught on a city camera. The video, released Thursday evening, showed a quiet and dark State Street interrupted by a flash of flames that launched the manhole cover more than a story in the air. Smoke then starts billowing from the open hole.

Others who were affected included the downtown branch of the YMCA, which closed at 8:30 a.m. due to expected power outages as repairs were made. It reopened at 3 p.m.

McCarthy said there was no safety threat, but the street was cordoned off to both pedestrian and vehicle traffic "with an abundance of caution." The sidewalks reopened after 3 p.m.

People working in businesses along State Street were asked to remain indoors during the repair work.

Proctors CEO Philip Morris said earlier in the day that the fire would not impact Thursday night's performance by Bryan Ferry.

Erin O'Neill contributed to this report.

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