Manhole covers went flying into the air in Albany as a fire worked its way along powerlines underneath Pearl Street.
An underground electrical fire broke out and forced crews to shut down part of Pearl Street and evacuate buildings.
National Grid is still on scene clearing high levels of carbon monoxide that were detected as a result of this incident.
Teams are also still working on repairing the damaged wires underground.
Two buildings are still without power and Pearl Street remains closed.
A typical Wednesday afternoon at the office turned into quite a story for employees working on and near Pearl Street.
“We could smell smoke and we heard a manhole cover blow off,” said Chris Hodson who works at the Steuben Building on Pearl Street.
“All of a sudden there was a loud explosion and it felt like it was on our roof,” said Richard Medvetz who works at a building on Columbia Street. “We went outside, saw smoke billowing from manhole cover on Chapel, and the smoke was just billowing into the building. So, we went back into our building, and watched from a window, and there were three or four more little explosions, you could see the manhole cover rise and come back down.”
Fire crews rushed to the scene, shut down Pearl Street between Columbia and State, and got everyone out of the buildings.
“There were high readings of CO in the basements, which would have given us problems for occupants, so best thing to do was to evacuate all the structures,” explained Albany Fire Chief Robert Forezzi.
“The fire department came in and told us we have to evacuate immediately,” said Kenneth Wrobel who is the supervisor of the Kenmore Building on Pearl.
A National Grid team was just around the corner when they got the call.
“Our system detected that there was an interruption in the line so we sent crews right away,” said National Grid Spokesman Patrick Stella.
Chief Forezzi says underground electrical fires aren't out of the ordinary in urban areas, but they are serious business.
“They usually occur from decay and rot,” Forezzi said. “Salt gets in during winter and leaves hot spots in the wire, it’s electricity and eventually it causes a fire.”
The Chief says the fire spread along the electrical lines and built up enough pressure to blow about six manhole covers.
Officials say it’s lucky no one was hurt.
“The Sheriff’s Department said, ‘you better get out of here, because if these things start going up then you better have a good life insurance policy,” Medvetz said.
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings was at the scene Wednesday afternoon.
He is calling on National Grid for a thorough investigation of the power and gas lines in that part of the city.
Officials hope to be able to give the all clear for the buildings and to reopen Pearl Street in time for the Thursday morning commute.