As promised, we followed up with Seattle City Light today about Saturday’s underground-electrical-vault problem that took out power for almost 4,000 homes and businesses. It happened right outside Spruce/LA Fitness at 39th SW/Fauntleroy Way/SW Alaska shortly after 1 pm; people reported hearing explosions, and then – as shown in the top photo – smoke began pouring out of the vault covers in the street. Some WSB commenters noted that there had been a “planned” outage in the area the night before, and in his response to our inquiry, City Light spokesperson Scott Thomsen confirmed a connection:
The underlying cause of the vault fire and outage was the failure of a piece of equipment called a j-box, which is essentially a high-voltage power strip.
The planned outage [Friday night] allowed our crews to install new equipment, including cable, which was spliced into an old cable. After it was energized, the j-box connected to the section of old cable is what failed. The crew isolated the damage and made repairs.
Seattle Fire’s time on scene was relatively short – all but one unit was cleared within less than an hour; we checked today with SFD spokesperson Lt. Harold Webb, who explained, “City Light was on scene when we arrived and quickly secured the vault and did not require further SFD standby.” But effects of the outage kept them busy, he added: “We had numerous elevator removals [in the area] due to widespread power outages.” No one was hurt. The last 130+ customers without power didn’t get it back, as noted in our updates, for almost eight hours.