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Underground fires and evacuations after Central District gas leak — UPDATE

Fire shot from utility covers and burned through asphalt Wednesday as a natural gas leak ignited in the Central District.

Seattle Fire and Puget Sound Energy were responding as homes and businesses in the surrounding blocks were evacuated out of concern about the burning gas. Streets in the area were also closed to traffic.

Power has been turned off in the area affecting about 2,000 customers.

The incident began around 11 AM according to 911 logs.

There have been no reported injuries.

Seattle Fire illustrated the evacuation area in this hastily drawn map

SFD reported around 1 PM that firefighters were “applying dry chem to knock down the natural gas fire to protect exposures” and Puget Sound Energy was “working hard to secure the leak,” SFD said the response is “expected to be an extended incident.”

UPDATE 3:23 PM: The city reports the area is now safe to reenter. Street signage has been added to the damaged areas and flaggers are still in the area as the scene is cleaned up and repaired.

Seattle Fire says the fire started when natural gas ignited above an underground electrical vault. Around 50 to 75 people were evacuated an an AlertSeattle message was sent via text, email and voice “to residents in the impacted area.”

UPDATE x2: Puget Sound Energy, meanwhile, said it was still investigating what went wrong. “We are still determining the cause of the natural gas leak,” a spokesperson said. “We were able to locate the leak and shut it down just before 2 p.m. but will continue to investigate what happened.”

A full update from Seattle Fire on the incident is below.

Firefighters responded to the 2700 Blk. of E. Cherry St. on Feb. 24 for a report of flames coming from an underground electrical vault, visible on the sidewalk. When crews arrived on scene, they confirmed that natural gas had ignited above an underground electrical vault, and that an electrical vault across the street also had a smoldering fire (extinguished on its own prior to SFD arrival). The gas had also seeped through asphalt on the sidewalk and surrounding area.

SFD’s Vault Response Team, Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light were notified and requested to respond to the scene. Firefighters began to conduct air monitoring in the nearby structures and underground utility systems. Levels of natural gas were found and the incident commander determined 1-block in each direction of the incident needed to be evacuated as a precaution. Approximately 50-75 individuals were evacuated. An AlertSeattle message was sent via text, email and voice to residents in the impacted area (sign-up at

Seattle City Light was able to quickly shut off power to the immediate area to allow Puget Sound Energy to begin work of securing the gas. King County Metro also responded to shut off power to the trolley lines that ran above the fire. Firefighters applied dry chem to the active natural gas fire, to keep it controlled and prevent it from spreading to a nearby building and power pole.

Around 3 p.m. the gas was secured, and follow-up air monitoring began. Once natural gas levels were deemed safe for the public, the area was reopened and the evacuation order was lifted. There were no injuries reported. Seattle Fire has turned the scene over to Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light.

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1 month ago

Who had asphalt-melting underground fires on their 2021 bingo card?

1 month ago

Scary stuff! Thank you for the story

1 month ago

I love King’s Deli.