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Electrical Fire Knocks Out Power Downtown

An early-morning electrical fire Thursday injured a utility workman and caused a power outage in a large section of downtown, including the Convention Center and the Marriott Hotel & Marina, the San Diego Fire Department said.

The fire ignited as San Diego Gas & Electric Co. workmen attempted to switch off an electrical power bank, authorities said.

Ronald Green, 44, suffered second-degree burns on his face and hands. He was treated at UCSD Medical Center and released, a hospital spokeswoman said.

An SDG&E; spokesman said the fire, which was extinguished within minutes, broke out when employees who were attempting to work on a power bank at a downtown substation--which normally handles 69,000 volts--triggered an electrical feedback as they turned off a switch.

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“It was a normal procedure. He was trying to isolate the power so he could work” on the equipment, said SDG&E; spokesman Fred Vaughn. “The switch is similar to the one used in the ‘Frankenstein’ movie, but this one is a bigger version.”

Power was restored four hours later, at 10:45 a.m., to the 10-square block area bordered by Kettner Boulevard, State Street, E Street and Harbor Drive, Vaughn said. SDG&E; is attempting to determine the cause of the fire. Power was restored by rerouting it from other substations.

“We don’t know why it happened, so that’s why we have to do the rerouting,” Vaughn said. “Normally those big, bright blade switches are just fine for substations. Normally.”


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