UPDATE: ‘Vault fire’ response in The Junction; thousands of customers lose power

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(First two photos by Orla Casey)

ORIGINAL REPORT, 1:25 PM: Seattle Fire is responding to a call characterized as a “minor explosion” near Fauntleroy and Alaska. At least one witness say it’s blown off a “manhole cover” near Spruce/LA Fitness. Power is out to more than 3,200 homes and businesses in West Seattle as a result, according to the City Light outage map. More to come.

1:32 PM: This has escalated to a “vault fire” callout.

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1:38 PM: Adding a photo. Lots of emergency vehicles and big traffic backups, so avoid the Fauntleroy/Alaska area TFN.

1:49 PM: City Light says they hope to restore power “within a few hours.” SFD has canceled some of the units responding to the vault fire (for the commenter who asked what that means – it’s an underground vault that’s part of the electrical system). No word of any injuries so far.

1:55 PM: Now up to more than 3,900 homes and businesses out – this is on the City Light map as two separate outages, 3,200+ and 600+. Adding a screengrab momentarily for the record:

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1:59 PM: And then … some got their power back, so the outage has returned to 3,200+. Thanks for the updates in comments – that’s usually first word of power restoration!

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2:12 PM: Commenter Matt shared the photo you see above – the smoke coming from underground right in front of Spruce/LA Fitness just after explosions were heard. Meantime, the number of homes/businesses without power is down to 1,820.

2:33 PM: Seattle Fire has completely cleared the scene, meaning the fire is out. In addition to those still without power – an outage also affecting some traffic lights in the area – we also have several mentions that Comcast service is out.

2:52 PM: Just added above, our upload of Matt’s video (linked in comments) of the vault smoke from earlier. Meantime, more comments are saying power’s back, even in the immediate vicinity. Thanks for the updates!

3:55 PM: Down to 136 out, per SCL map.

9 PM: Five hours after that note – they’re still out. Meantime, a Spruce resident has published video from the aftermath of what happened this afternoon:

9:22 PM: Minutes before the estimated time of restoration, the power’s back for all, according to the City Light map. (Call SCL if yours is NOT back yet!)

121 Replies to "UPDATE: 'Vault fire' response in The Junction; thousands of customers lose power"

  • Triangle resident December 10, 2016 (1:27 pm)

    Power out in 4700 block of 37th.  Big boom heard three flickers and out.  The mount backup generator came on immediately.  

  • Matt S. December 10, 2016 (1:28 pm)

    We heard loud pops as our power flickered out at 36th and Andover. 

    • Ada December 10, 2016 (1:47 pm)

      I live in the Link apartments a head loud bangs too, which correlated with my power flicking and then going out. 

  • Derek December 10, 2016 (1:28 pm)

    Yep, powers out from there and up the hill towards Mt St Vincent. Was just out and here and explosion. Generators kicked on at the Mt right away, and lights are off on the Whitaker. 

  • Joana December 10, 2016 (1:29 pm)

    Power out on Genesee & 36th. 

  • Dana December 10, 2016 (1:32 pm)

    On the ball as usual WSB! My power went out about 10 minutes ago. After checking with SCL, I came here and you’ve already posted. 

  • redblack December 10, 2016 (1:36 pm)

    lost power at 1:20 on the mount. i just reported it to SCL’s phone robot.

  • Shari December 10, 2016 (1:36 pm)

    We were stopped at the intersection of Fauntleroy and California when he heard the first one. We thought it was a car accident and then saw people crossing the street looking over their shoulder at la fitness. Then we saw puffs of smoke and some sparks come from the ground in front of la fitness. Then noticed all the power was out. A bit scary. 

  • Sara December 10, 2016 (1:36 pm)

    Lights flicked on and off a few times. Then poof. 

  • Katherine December 10, 2016 (1:37 pm)

    What is a vault fire? 

    • Erithan December 10, 2016 (1:48 pm)

      I’m not sure, but it sounds like it might mean underground or enclosed in an area with only one exit/entrance like a vault.

    • Paul G. December 10, 2016 (1:49 pm)

      A vault is an underground room with electrical transformers.

  • Erithan December 10, 2016 (1:39 pm)

    Area near 42nd and Safeway out.

  • K December 10, 2016 (1:40 pm)

    What’s a vault fire?

  • Admiral area December 10, 2016 (1:40 pm)

    Admiral area lights flickered but still have power

    • JanS December 10, 2016 (2:15 pm)

      my lights flickered about 3 times, and then stayed on…in Admiral District, near Admiral Way…

  • Harry December 10, 2016 (1:41 pm)

    We had brown outs on 48th, south of the junction. Power still on but it was felt down here!

  • Mayor of fauntleroy December 10, 2016 (1:45 pm)

    Power out at 37th and Dakota. 

  • A.smokes December 10, 2016 (1:45 pm)

    Power still on at 38th and Charlestown.. heard it’s out in the junction. hearing a lot of sirens.

  • Amanda December 10, 2016 (1:45 pm)

    We were working out in LA fitness and they just evacuated the building. 

  • Melissa December 10, 2016 (1:46 pm)

    Across the street. We were able to see the last explosion and smoke come from outside LA Fitness. Took about 2 minutes for emergency response to arrive after we called it in.  We hope everyone is safe! 

  • Jana December 10, 2016 (1:47 pm)

    I heard the explosion from my kitchen window. Like a big whoosh sound, I thought it was some weird acid entry or something. We share the alley with LA FITNESS.

    • Jana December 10, 2016 (4:02 pm)

      *accident (thanks auto-correct)

  • Emily Katcher December 10, 2016 (1:49 pm)

    Here is a PDF of a slide show about a vault fire in Portland, FYI. Sounds like a specific sort of underground cable event.

     http://www.esafetyline.com/eei/conference%20pdf%20files/eeiFall2014/ih/vaultJenkin.pdf

  • Sevenless December 10, 2016 (1:49 pm)

    There are big backups on the WB bridge past the Delridge exit, likely related to this. Avalon looks to be flowing well though, so exit early and take surface streets if you can!

  • Nick December 10, 2016 (1:50 pm)

    I thought i heard some thuds when it happened. I live about 3 blocks north from LA fitness. Set off quite a few car alarms.

  • redblack December 10, 2016 (1:51 pm)

    vault fire means that there was a fire in an electrical vault under the sidewalk.

  • Magpie December 10, 2016 (1:52 pm)

    Two or three flickers and out it went. Our next door neighbor has power, we are on 39th and Andover. There was a vault fire several years ago on downtown and power was out for days. 

  • AS December 10, 2016 (1:54 pm)

    Power out on Avalon near 35th.  

  • Kate December 10, 2016 (1:54 pm)

    Power is on for some businesses in the junction. Easy street is on!

  • Derek December 10, 2016 (1:55 pm)

    38 and Hudson and power is back. 

  • redblack December 10, 2016 (2:01 pm)

    power’s back on at 1:55. thanks, WSB, SFD, and SCL!

  • Click! Design That Fits December 10, 2016 (2:02 pm)

    East side of California is out on our block in the Junction, but Click! is open with backup power!

  • nickdowntown December 10, 2016 (2:02 pm)

    We were about to step into West Seattle Bowl (one block north of the incident) and saw bright orange flashes and dark objects flying through the air – then heard the explosion and the metal plate landing on the concrete. So glad nobody was hurt!!

  • Andy December 10, 2016 (2:02 pm)

    Power just came on at 36th & Andover!!!

  • Amanda December 10, 2016 (2:03 pm)

    Power is back at 32nd & genesse

  • Emily Katcher December 10, 2016 (2:03 pm)

    back on at 36th and Dakota

  • CC December 10, 2016 (2:03 pm)

    Power is back on at West Seattle Brewery! 

  • WGA December 10, 2016 (2:04 pm)

    Power back on about five minutes ago (Edmunds & 41st). Southern edge of outage area.

  • Jesse December 10, 2016 (2:05 pm)

    Power is back @ Fauntleroy and Hudson.

  • Tony December 10, 2016 (2:05 pm)

    Fast response- power back on at Genesee & 25th

  • Larry December 10, 2016 (2:05 pm)

    Could the vault fire have anything to do with the planned power outage that we had in the neighborhood last night?

  • Matt December 10, 2016 (2:07 pm)

    Ran outside right after the explosions before the fire department got there.  Manhole covers were blown open and were smoking.

    Video here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XzShq_HoXKa1aoWjNDtX0bAUW_mnn8j_rA/view

    • WSB December 10, 2016 (2:08 pm)

      Thank you!

  • Dana December 10, 2016 (2:07 pm)

    Power is back on Fauntleroy Way

  • Amy December 10, 2016 (2:08 pm)

    Power back on just east of 35th/Avalon

  • Jennifer hall December 10, 2016 (2:08 pm)

    Thank so much for the information, WSB, all who responded, and for the people who put up informational posts here.  I just came home through it, and was concerned.  So glad to know no one hurt.  Thanks, everyone, for doing a great job!

  • PAMELA FORD December 10, 2016 (2:10 pm)

    just checked the blog, so thats why our light kept flickering on and off here in Morgan Junction

  • Amanda December 10, 2016 (2:11 pm)

    Power came on for my house 38th Ave SW btn Dakota and Andover at 2:02pm

  • steve December 10, 2016 (2:12 pm)

    Back on:  37th Ave between Genesee and Dakota.  We’ll see how long it stays up.

  • Joe December 10, 2016 (2:16 pm)

    Elect back at 2:04. No Comcast   

  • Derek Garcia December 10, 2016 (2:16 pm)

    Power back on 26th and Oregon

  • Marissa December 10, 2016 (2:17 pm)

    They’re telling residents in the Spruce/LA fitness 8-10 hours for power to be back on.

    • Erithan December 10, 2016 (2:20 pm)

      Yikes! Hope that won’t apply to those occurs near, still dark in 42nd by qfc.  Qfc could only take cash more recently to for anyone wondering, but open.

      • Erithan December 10, 2016 (2:21 pm)

        **Should say who are, not occurs.

        sorry, phone, till battery dies.@@

    • WSB December 10, 2016 (2:21 pm)

      Thanks. Wouldn’t be surprising for the people closest to have a long outage – for many others who were affected, what’s likely been happening is rerouting.

      • Erithan December 10, 2016 (2:46 pm)

        Hopefully not to long, had to brave the fridge! Power outage picnic with Amber. I’m rationing lol

  • Eric December 10, 2016 (2:19 pm)

    Power isn’t still out at the Link Apartments on 38th and Alaska

  • Eric December 10, 2016 (2:19 pm)

    Is still out*

  • Tim O December 10, 2016 (2:24 pm)

    We were in line at Trader Joes and had half our groceries checked out when the power went out. They had to turn us away! No sweet and salty chocolate covered almonds for us! So sad!!

  • Denny December 10, 2016 (2:25 pm)

    Power back on but no cable/Internet (xfinity). Anyone else? 35th/Avalon area 

    • JohnH December 10, 2016 (2:31 pm)

      No Comcast cable at 39th and Dakota.

  • 4thGenWestSide December 10, 2016 (2:30 pm)

    Comcast said they hope to have it back up by 7:00 PM. Just after the Sounders game ends. 

    • George T December 10, 2016 (2:41 pm)

      Sounders viewing party at Beveridge Place Pub. 

    • WSB December 10, 2016 (2:49 pm)

      As mentioned in the daily preview, Ounces was going to watch the game too. And I know The Westy is an “official” viewing place. West Seattle Brewing, I believe.

  • Helena December 10, 2016 (2:31 pm)

    Power is still out at Junction 47.  Doesn’t look like A La Mode pies has power either

  • Sue December 10, 2016 (2:31 pm)

    Any word about the Whittaker?

  • jules December 10, 2016 (2:32 pm)

    Power back on.  No xfinity.  39th and Andover.

  • Egigik December 10, 2016 (2:33 pm)

    I moved out of West Seattle because of the weather, development, and the horrible traffic. My God the traffic has got sooo much worse. Glad I left now.

    • Matt S. December 10, 2016 (2:35 pm)

      We all thank you for treating us to your comment, and will return to our collective misery. 

    • 4thGenWestSide December 10, 2016 (2:35 pm)

      Sounds like you may be on the wrong thread or site.  Maybe find a “I hate West Seattle” blog.

    • datamuse December 10, 2016 (2:55 pm)

      Yes, it’s like this all the time, with multiple signals out and a vault fire. ALL the time. I wouldn’t move back. ;)

  • Laurel December 10, 2016 (2:38 pm)

    I love having the WSB as a tool in our information arsenal!!! Thanks for all the updates! I think we had as many as 10 firetrucks, an ambulance, and 2 SPD vehicles here at one point (I’m in the Spruce building). I heard we even had some folks stuck in the elevator. Happy everyone is well, and excited for the power to return later tonight! 

  • Mike December 10, 2016 (2:41 pm)

    Glad nobody died.  Sound like it got overloaded and blew.  That’s an expensive mishap.  Our systems were not designed for this amount of load, but nobody cares.

    • Captin December 10, 2016 (6:39 pm)

      Are you an electrical engineer?

  • Sabrina December 10, 2016 (2:47 pm)

    Power is on at Oregon 42 just now

  • Matt December 10, 2016 (2:47 pm)

    Power just came back on in the Spruce apartments!

  • Helena December 10, 2016 (2:48 pm)

    2:47 pm – power’s back on @ Junction 47! Woo hoo!!

  • Matt December 10, 2016 (2:48 pm)

    Power back at 40th and Edmonds. 

  • Ryan December 10, 2016 (2:49 pm)

    Power back at Link on 38th/Alaska

  • Renee P December 10, 2016 (2:49 pm)

     Power back on at 41st and Oregon! 

  • Erithan December 10, 2016 (2:51 pm)

    Power back on 42nd here by qfc!

  • Larry December 10, 2016 (2:52 pm)

    Still out on 37th and Alaska

  • Lauren Reid December 10, 2016 (2:52 pm)

    Power back at Altamira so I assume QFC?

  • Sue December 10, 2016 (2:53 pm)

    Just came back up at City Watch (41st just south of Alaska). 

  • Fourth December 10, 2016 (2:57 pm)

    Still out around 37th and Edmunds. We were also part of the “planned” power outage last night (started at 9 pm), so this has been a rather cold and inconvenienced 24 hrs. I’m curious if whatever SCL did last night caused the fire. 

    • Hilary December 10, 2016 (5:00 pm)

      When did they notify you? Myself and neighbors on 38th never received anything.

      • Fourth December 10, 2016 (7:46 pm)

        We received a flyer maybe 10 days or so beforehand. It was actually the third notice we got– but all for different dates. The first one never happened (and we planned around it!). The second one was cancelled. The third was last night. I had several frustrating conversations with a city rep about the timing starting before the first planned outage. Let’s just say that after my conversations, I’m not very impressed with SCL.

    • Thomas December 10, 2016 (5:11 pm)

      I had the exact same thought. Seems like too much to just be a coincidence.

  • Diane December 10, 2016 (2:57 pm)

    looks like a miracle no one was hurt out on the sidewalk by the explosion; thank god

  • Sd December 10, 2016 (3:01 pm)

    Power is back in Jefferson square

  • Donna Hayward December 10, 2016 (3:05 pm)

    Not sure why power outages are such a big deal. 🤔 The power goes out, and then later it comes back on. It shouldn’t be this exciting. 

    • datamuse December 10, 2016 (3:23 pm)

      Outages are not very exciting. Manhole covers exploding? THAT’s exciting! :D

    • Richie December 10, 2016 (3:58 pm)

      Comcast going down before the MLS Cup game featuring the Sounders is a big deal to some.  

    • Westgirl December 10, 2016 (4:07 pm)

      It’s a big deal because my family and I were standing right near the manhole covers when they blew up. Very scary!! 

      • Captin December 10, 2016 (6:43 pm)

        I work on that stuff for a living. Yes it is scary and yes it is no joke. We do our best to have good craftsmanship and not have things fail but they do sometimes. When a “medium voltage” 15,000 or 26,000 volt line has a fault it is extremely violent. It’s fortunate in a place with a lot of pedestrian traffic no one was hurt. 

  • Joe December 10, 2016 (3:10 pm)

    Just spent 40 minutes with XFINITY. No tv, no net, no xfinity phone. Tried to troubleshoot my system since his records show outage corrected.  XFINITY CSR finally agrees outage NOT fixed and putting in a repair ticket. No time line for repair.  Did get a $15.99 bill credit. If your XFINITY is out I suggest you call, complain nicely, and ask for a service credit 

  • Stevie December 10, 2016 (3:15 pm)

    When I spoke to a Comcast/Xfinity rep I was told 4:30 for an expected return time on cable/internet/phone service.

    • Ilia December 10, 2016 (3:39 pm)

      Hope it’s true 😊

      • Stevie December 10, 2016 (9:10 pm)

        FWIW, Comcast came back online around 5:00 and went out again about 9:00 tonight (third time in 24 hours, at least 2 of which were unrelated to any power outages). WHY am I paying them an outlandish sum of money every month for this complete lack of service…? :/

  • Jane December 10, 2016 (3:17 pm)

    Still no power here on 35th ave

    • Erithan December 10, 2016 (3:22 pm)

      Did you check breakers and “test” buttons just in case? Hope it’s back for you soon!

      • Jane December 10, 2016 (3:45 pm)

        Checked everything.  I meant to say 37th and Alaska not 35th had a big pot of stew cooking now cooking outside  on the camp stove outside. :)

  • A Preston December 10, 2016 (3:22 pm)

    Our power is still out on 35th and Alaska st . 

  • Ray December 10, 2016 (3:54 pm)

    Had a basketball game earlier at High Point community center and I was wondering why the gym lights started flickering around 1PM. Makes sense now!

  • Fourth December 10, 2016 (4:06 pm)

    Per SCL’s website, the estimate for restoration for those of us still without power is 9:25 pm. :-(

  • Andy December 10, 2016 (4:48 pm)

    Seattle city light was hooking up the Whitaker apartment building last night and had the street in front of La Fitness and West Seattle Bowl shut down over night to perform that cut over. Interesting how the next day the transformer vault blew?  Hmmm.

  • Trickycoolj December 10, 2016 (5:07 pm)

    5:07pm Alaska and 35th traffic light still out. 

  • Thomas December 10, 2016 (5:13 pm)

    Power is still out at 35th and Alaska. Bummer.

  • Jim December 10, 2016 (5:21 pm)

    Interesting about the Whitaker.  Is power still out there?  

  • Thomas December 10, 2016 (5:43 pm)

    Power was out last night about 9pm for some scheduled maintenance. There was a crew working right at 35th and Alaska. After looking at this outtage map, it seems safe to assume that whatever “maintenance” they did last night probably caused the fire. 

  • Karen December 10, 2016 (6:09 pm)

    Still out and getting colder by the minute, even with 2 hotdogs next to me (dachshunds!) SCL shows 136 still affected and the ETA 9:25pm :(

    • WSB December 10, 2016 (6:11 pm)

      As we often point out, the restoration estimates are really just guesstimates. Last notable outage, the power came back much, much sooner. Here’s hoping the fix happens sooner here too…

      • Jane December 10, 2016 (8:37 pm)

        Still no power on 37th and Alaska and it’s cold

  • Lisa December 10, 2016 (6:37 pm)

    WaveG out at Altamira apartments. Estimated return to service is 9:30.

    • Lisa December 11, 2016 (6:43 pm)

      WaveG still out at several buildings I’m told. Maybe it’ll be back up tomorrow…

  • DJ December 10, 2016 (8:35 pm)

    My apartment is almost directly over the man hole covers

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amYfCsmfpFI

  • Thomas December 10, 2016 (8:55 pm)

    Still out….

  • Outofdarkness December 10, 2016 (9:20 pm)

    Power just came back on 36th & Alaska.  No internet.

    • WSB December 10, 2016 (9:22 pm)

      Just noticed the City Light map counter is now down to “0.” If anyone IS still without power, be sure to call to make sure they know!

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