Explosion Underground on UO Campus

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EUGENE, Ore. — An underground electrical fire made for an exciting first day back for University of Oregon students.

The explosion forced administrators to close part of campus.

UO Police and fire crews shut down Agate Street between 13th and 15th avenues all morning as they dealt with mysterious explosions and a fire they couldn’t even see.

“Just after 10 o’clock this morning, we had reports of a few small electrical explosions coming from a maintenance tunnel just south of our student health center,” said Kelly McIver, UO Police Department.

Those underground explosions and suspicious smoke clouds continued for over an hour, prompting authorities to evacuate the student health center and shut down power to multiple buildings, including dorms.

“What we had to do was wait for a while for the power to get shut down for the maintenance tunnel area so the Eugene Fire Department could get down there and investigate the cause of that situation,” McIver said.

Meanwhile, the university kept students and faculty informed via UO Alert text messages.

“Emergency incident reported near the health center, avoid the area. Emergency response is on the way, more details to follow,” said one student, reading the alert.

Many students saying it was nice to see the alert service in action.

“At least in the time that I’ve been here, this is the first time I’ve gotten a text message like this. It’s usually more alerts that happen the night before,” said a student.

“We don’t like to have live events that we have to do safety things around, but we’d much rather have this as dry-run opportunity for testing all of those procedures we have, rather than something that is much more serious,” McIver said.

It took almost three hours for university and fire crews secure and examine the underground fire before they could re-open the area to cars and pedestrians. Around noon, crews deemed the area safe.

“The fire is completely out. No more fire or smoke coming from there, but it’s going to take a little while to determine exactly what happened,” McIver said.

Power has been restored to all the buildings that were shut off earlier in the day. University officials say they’re still investigating the exact cause of the fire in the maintenance tunnel.

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