PG&E Vault Fire Rages, 4500 Without Power

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News

Published on June 05, 2009 with 4 Comments

A PG&E electrical fire rages at the intersection of O’Farrell and Polk streets in San Francisco.
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Luke Thomas

June 5, 2009 2:30 pm

Forty-five hundred San Francisco residents are without power this afternoon following an electrical fire that started in an underground vault operated by PG&E at the intersection of O’Farrell and Polk streets.

The fire, which is billowing thick plumes of toxic black smoke in the direction of downtown, began around noon according to witnesses.

PG&E crews recommended the fire be left to burn itself out after initially saying Co2 could be used to snuff out the flames, according to officials on scene. That was in the early stages of the emergency response before the fire grew in size and intensity.

PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian said it is too early in the investigation to understand what may have caused the fire, though speculation a transformer may have shorted or exploded has not been ruled out.

“We actually do not have a cause as to what happened specifically, “ Sarkissian told Fog City Journal.

Sarkissian said “cables” and a “DC main” are housed in the vault but could not provide further details.

“We do apologize to our customers,” Sarkissian said. “I know that this is an inconvenience and a concern for our customers. It is a concern for us as well and we are doing everything we can to make sure that power gets back on as quickly and safely as possible.”

PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian speaks with reporters.

Police crews are redirecting traffic around the scene of the fire and have implemented traffic control wardens at intersections impacted by the power outage.

No injuries have been reported.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Comments for PG&E Vault Fire Rages, 4500 Without Power are now closed.

  1. Look at these pictures the next time your impatient ass starts cursing the PG&E guys in the field. There is a reason their work takes so long…IT”S CALLED SAFETY PRECAUTIONS.

    Not posting to support the utility, its profit structure, etc. Merely to point to the results of an accident and/or malfunction and the lucky sisters and brothers who happened to NOT be in that vault at the wrong time.

    These people put their lives on the line every day to provide you convienance, never mind the risk they face from the idiots in cars. Give them a break.


  2. It started well before 1:00. I got stuck in the traffic at about 12:15. At that time the Fire Dept and Police were there and the street was blocked off. Traffic lights were out from Fillmore to at least Larking, Sutter to Ellis were out.

  3. A similar explosion occurred on August 19, 2005, seriously injuring a woman. Today’s explosion seems to confirm that negligence is an essential component of the PG&E business model.

    Is it true that as long as essential public resources are owned by private interests, public safety will never be the top priority? Will this disaster that has once again threatened the whole city be investigated, and by whom?

  4. Hot stuff!

    Best shots out fastest. As usual. You were 15 minutes ahead of any other posts and their photos and video were lame. It always amazes me how one guy can beat several teams of reporters from dailies and a fleet of helicopters.

    You thinking of getting a helicopter?