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Hours after underground fire sends manholes flying in downtown Baltimore, smoke seen pouring out again

Bystanders near the intersection of Charles and Lexington streets reported seeing black smoke billowing into the air before manhole covers exploded. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

An underground fire caused at least four manhole covers to burst from the street in downtown Baltimore on Monday night, according to the Baltimore Fire Department.

A Baltimore Fire Department paramedic was taken to the hospital after being hit by a flying manhole cover near the intersection of Charles and Lexington streets, and two firetrucks were damaged in the explosions, fire department spokeswoman Blair Skinner said. The injuries were non-life-threatening, Skinner said.

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Bystanders near the intersection of Charles and Lexington streets reported seeing black smoke billowing into the air before manhole covers exploded Monday evening.

And late Tuesday morning, fire crews and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. officials responded to the scene when smoke again began pouring from two of the manhole covers.

An underground fire caused at least four manhole covers to burst from the street in downtown Baltimore on Monday night, according to the Baltimore Fire Department.
An underground fire caused at least four manhole covers to burst from the street in downtown Baltimore on Monday night, according to the Baltimore Fire Department. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Seeing the smoke Monday evening, Katherine Kozakevych, a Baltimore resident from Ukraine, left her building, taking her passport and laptop with her. She and her friends were sitting outside when fire officials arrived.

"Maybe 10 minutes later it was big explosion from the ground, like a fire and also smoke, and everybody was evacuated from the street," she said.

A day later and the smoke still pouring out of manholes on Charles Street. Closed at Lexington. (Baltimore Sun video)

Several nearby businesses were evacuated as a precaution Monday night, Skinner said.

"Anytime there's an underground fire there's always a chance of carbon monoxide going into some of the buildings," she said.

Baltimore's downtown area has seen a number of flying manhole covers in recent months. In June, witnesses reported that two manhole covers blew off and smoke billowed at Charles and Lombard streets.

The cause remained under investigation Tuesday, Skinner said.

Linda Foy, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., said in an email an underground electric cable was damaged by steam. BGE plans to remove and replace the damaged cable, and customers whose service relied on the cable were transferred to another line, she said.

In early February, news outlets reported that another electrical fire shut down traffic on Charles from Lombard to Redwood streets.

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