Underground fire at City Market forces evacuations - KCTV5

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Underground fire at City Market forces evacuations

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(Brett Hacker/KCTV5) (Brett Hacker/KCTV5)
From Matt Staub on Twitter: '#RiverMarket transformer fire was not what I had in mind for 3rd St traffic calming.' From Matt Staub on Twitter: '#RiverMarket transformer fire was not what I had in mind for 3rd St traffic calming.'
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

An underground electrical fire in the City Market forced business evacuations Wednesday morning, and some eyewitnesses described feeling the ground shake.

Investigators remained on the scene over seven hours after they were first called there as they tried to pinpoint the fire's cause.

The electrical fire was reported in the area of East Third and Walnut streets about 11 a.m. It directly affected two floors of a building in the heart of the city-owned market. Taste of Brazil Market and Bloom Baking Company are two of the five businesses on the first floor. The second floor houses residential apartments and a law firm.

Kansas City Power and Light said an underground cable caught fire. Utility and fire officials are working to determine what caused it.

KCP&L officials say that they are working to restore power to 37 customers, which includes residences and businesses. Power isn't likely to be restored until Wednesday night.

Employees at The Farmhouse, located two blocks west, said they saw a lot of yellow smoke.

"I felt like we were going to blow up," said Nicole Ammer of City Market Coffee House who said she heard a popping noise and ran outside to shoot video on her cell phone. "There was billowing smoke coming out of the manhole, it was billowing like it was water. It was weird, my pipes were shaking."

Kansas City Fire Department Battalion Chief James Garrett said they had to evacuate businesses in the north area of City Market.

"Because electricity runs, anything can get grounded and get hot. It's very rare that can happen but, rather than take a chance of somebody getting hurt, we just evacuate to ensure everybody's safe," said Battalion Chief Mike Cashen.

Garrett said fire crews had to cut electricity to the area before they could go down to fight the blaze. They had it under control shortly before 12:30 p.m.

"What it was we don't know. Power and Light is going to be investigating that now. We just know it was popping and burning activity and reacting," Cashen said.

While some reported explosions, fire officials emphasized that no explosions occurred.

Betty and Richard Connell love coming to City Market from their Houston Lake, MO, home to try all the unique types of food.

"We come quite frequently," said Betty Connell.

Wednesday they wanted some Middle Eastern food from Habashi House, but the underground fire knocking out power to the restaurant forced them to change their plans.

"I was at the store at the time. I started watching the lights blinking on and off," said Ahmad Al Habashi, who owns Habashi House. "I went to the back, there was some smoke coming down several holes in the back of Carollo's."

Many people visiting and working in the area said they were shocked by all the police and firefighter presence.

"I mean it made me a little nervous. I didn't really know what was going on initially," Aaron Bennett said.

No injuries were reported to the fire department. By 1:30 p.m. owners and employees were allowed back into their stores even if power wasn't entirely restored.

Habashi said the underground fire won't force him out of an area where he's worked for almost 25 years.

"We get people from all over the region, so it's been a successful business so far. We want to stay," he said. "Thankfully nobody was hurt."

KCTV5's DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.

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