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Underground fire blows off manhole lids downtown

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Underground fire blows off manhole lids downtown

January 3, 2005

BY AMBER HUNT MARTIN

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

At least a dozen cast-iron covers blew off manholes along Congress in downtown Detroit on Sunday after a fire began beneath the street.

Officials with DTE Energy and Michigan Consolidated Gas said the blaze, under the intersection with Cadillac Square and Randolph, started about 4 p.m. Its cause wasn't known Sunday night.

As underground cables burned and melted, the heat intensified, said Lorie Kessler, spokeswoman for DTE and MichCon. Pressure built up beneath the street and forced off the manhole covers.

"Between 15 and 20 blew off," Kessler said.

No one was hurt. Service in the area appeared unaffected -- the streetlights were still functioning, and Kessler said her utilities' customers lost neither power nor gas service.

Authorities couldn't say how far up the covers flew, but workers at the scene said some were discovered a few feet away from their holes.

The covers, some smashed into pieces, were piled beneath a streetlight as MichCon workers inspected the open holes Sunday night.

The manholes, which allow workers access to pipes and cables beneath the streets' surface, service several utility companies, including Detroit's public lighting department.

The utilities worked with Detroit fire officials to put out the blaze. Smoke poured from some of the open manholes, leaving the lingering stench of burning wires.

Detroit police officials said they blocked off the area to vehicles, though several motorists drove through the yellow police tape, toward the uncovered manholes. MichCon workers redirected them.

Kessler expected work at the site to continue today.

Contact AMBER HUNT MARTIN at 586-469-4904 or [email protected]

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