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Smoke and flames seen coming from downtown KC manhole

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Posted at 3:35 PM, Aug 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-27 22:40:25-04

Fire crews put out a fire in a manhole that caused black smoke to fill the air in downtown Kansas City on Saturday.

The fire started at 2:30 p.m. in a small part of the electrical network kept underground downtown near 10th Street and Wyandotte.

A resident of the Graphic Arts building, Bryan Fairbanks, lost power and saw flames and smoke coming from a manhole in the middle of the street.

KCP&L said they know the fire started in two cables, but the cause is still under investigation. They believe last night’s flooding could have been a factor.

About 400 people lost power because of the fire, mostly businesses that are closed today. KCP&L is working to restore power to all customers. They have a generator set up for people living in Old Town Loft. But they say most everyone should have power now. Permanent repairs should be made by Sunday.

One witness, Karen Dillon, said she saw the manhole cover fly about 25 feet in the air.

On Facebook, Dillon gives her account of the incident and even writes about hearing explosions. 

"I was walking out of the parking lot this afternoon across the street from the library and a fire truck rolled up. I noticed a couple firefighters standing around a manhole cover at the intersection and green smoke was coming out of it, about 30 to 40 feet from me. And then I noticed up the street firefighters around another manhole with much more green smoke.

I was positioning my camera to take a picture when suddenly there was an explosion.

The manhole cover closest to me blew up in the air, near nearly clipping the two firefighters. The cover was flipping over and over. The firefighters were scrambling to get out of the way and barely made it when it came crashing back to earth. I scrambled down the sidewalk and got a picture and noticed that several more manhole covers had smoke coming out of them. I headed into the library and had only been in that building a few minutes when there was a huge explosion. It actually shook the library. And if you know how big and well-built that building is, that was really amazing. Everybody headed outside to see what was happening.

When I first got outside I could see massive flames shooting out of one of the manholes. By the time I shot the photo, those flames were covered in the greenish smoke. We're all lucky that nobody got hurt and especially the firefighters."

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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