Midtown plant fire being blamed on lightning

August 9, 2009 4:56:00 PM PDT
Fire officials say a lightning strike is to blame for a fire Sunday at a transformer plant in the Midtown area.It happened around noon at the plant on Drew and Tuam. For a short time, people were told to shelter in place. The transformer substation suffered quite a bit of damage.

The massive amounts of smoke that emitted from the blaze could be seen for miles.

"I could see it three miles away when I was driving into the office," said eyewitness Jonathan Lack. "I saw the flames, must have been 50 to 60 feet up in the air."

Fire officials immediately suspected weather was the cause of the blaze. It erupted during a heavy rainstorm which passed over the city Sunday morning. The fire was so intense that firefighters issued a shelter-in-place for nearby residents. However, came out of their homes out of a need to know more.

"I would like to know something that is going on. I would like for them to know what's going on," said one nearby resident with whom we spoke.

Officials say mineral oil used to cool the transformers is what caught fire, forcing the department to let the blaze burn itself out.

CenterPoint, which manages the lines, says no residents were ever in danger and by 1:30pm, all the power lost was back on.

"I'm just relieved one this far away from my house and it wasn't any bigger because from the initial smoke, I thought it might have been a lot worse," said James Moore.

At the height of this incident, CenterPoint says 2,400 homes were without power, but within 90 minutes, all of the power was restored. The transformer substation is offline right now as crews do the repairs.

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