Underground fire leads to explosion in downtown Albany

Posted at: 03/23/2013 6:28 PM
Updated at: 03/23/2013 11:13 PM
By: Lily Jamali

No one was injured in an explosion this morning near the Albany Visitor Center.

But after a series of manhole explosions and an underground fire last fall, local residents are concerned.

Albany fire officials say their first concern was making sure no one was inside any of the buildings nearby.

Broken glass and a damaged window sill was the worst of the above-ground damage left behind by the explosion, which launched four manhole covers into the air at 5:30am Saturday.

It happened at Broadway and Clinton just in front of the Historic Quackenbush House - now the Olde English Pub.

Albany fire officials say the explosion was caused by a fire sparked by an underground electrical problem.

"Obviously when something like this happens you're concerned. But National Grid has given us all assurances that it was a bit of a freak accident," said Seamus Caffrey, manager at the Olde English Pub.

But it's the third accident in just six months in downtown Albany.

Last September, a burning cable led to an underground explosion in the afternoon, blowing a roughly three-hundred pound manhole cover into the air along Pearl Street.

The following week, 3,700 people lost power after another underground fire.

Back then, Mayor Jerry Jennings and fire officials vowed to get answers - even meeting with National Grid to address the matter.

Officials are attributing this and the other explosions to the city's aging infrastructure.

The communications director of the nearby Albany Distilling Company said Saturday's explosion might have been much worse if had happened at a different time of day, or another time of year.

"One time is too much. Three times and we're really looking at the chance of somebody getting injured, seriously or even dead," said Joe Bonilla.

National Grid says the Olde English Pub and Visitor Center were without power for about three hours.

It is now restored.