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UPDATED: Short caused underground electrical fire in New London

New London — An electrical short in a manhole caused an underground fire on Masonic Street Saturday night, New London Fire Department Battalion Chief Keith Nichols said.

The fire spread to three manholes along the length of the street and damaged a car, but caused no injuries or visible building damage, he said. Fire and police crews were called to the street at about 9:55 p.m. for a report of fire in a manhole. Black smoke and flames were pouring from a manhole on the street and the smell of burning plastic filled the air when crews arrived.

“While they were on scene a second manhole started showing fire and a third manhole had an explosion,” Nichols said Sunday. A vehicle parked next to one of the manholes was damaged, with several windows broken, Nichols said Sunday.

Slight smoke drifted into 165 State Street, where underground wires come above ground, but no fire extended there, Nichols said. Firefighters began evacuating area buildings after 10 p.m., but they are not normally occupied at that time, Nichols said.

Connecticut Light & Power crews responded to the scene within minutes, but were still trying to get the power off at 11:37 p.m., he said.

“They were on the scene quickly but could not shut the power off for whatever reason,” Nichols said. An underground utility crew from Hartford arrived at 1:42 a.m. “They were going to be there for quite a while by the sounds of it, potentially having to dig up the street,” he said.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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