SEATTLE – Firefighters responded to the 2700 Blk. of E. Cherry St. on Feb. 24 for a report of flames coming from an underground electrical vault, visible on the sidewalk. When crews arrived on scene, they confirmed that natural gas had ignited above an underground electrical vault, and that an electrical vault across the street also had a smoldering fire (extinguished on its own prior to SFD arrival). The gas had also seeped through asphalt on the sidewalk and surrounding area.
SFD’s Vault Response Team, Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light were notified and requested to respond to the scene. Firefighters began to conduct air monitoring in the nearby structures and underground utility systems. Levels of natural gas were found and the incident commander determined 1-block in each direction of the incident needed to be evacuated as a precaution. Approximately 50-75 individuals were evacuated. An AlertSeattle message was sent via text, email and voice to residents in the impacted area (sign-up at alert.seattle.gov).
Seattle City Light was able to quickly shut off power to the immediate area to allow Puget Sound Energy to begin work of securing the gas. King County Metro also responded to shut off power to the trolley lines that ran above the fire. Firefighters applied dry chem to the active natural gas fire, to keep it controlled and prevent it from spreading to a nearby building and power pole.
Around 3 p.m. the gas was secured, and follow-up air monitoring began. Once natural gas levels were deemed safe for the public, the area was reopened and the evacuation order was lifted. There were no injuries reported. Seattle Fire has turned the scene over to Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light.