Businesses without power for hours after transformer catches on fire

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — A power outage leaves hundreds of customers without power in downtown Bloomington Friday morning to afternoon.

Around 9:00 a.m., Ameren and the Bloomington Fire Department responded to flames shooting up from the ground in front of Beck’s Florist on Main Street.

A transformer caught fire, causing 400 customers to go without power.

“Three calls came in for smoke and fire, we weren’t sure where it was coming from, it just seemed like it was coming from a vent from the sidewalk. They weren’t sure if it was Beck’s basement, which we found out later it was just a transistor,” said Bloomington Fire Department Public Information Officer Eric Davison.

This continued through the lunch hour causing businesses to shut down for the day and turn customers away.

“We actually heard a pop and the electricity went off for 2-3 seconds and came right back on. We didn’t know what it was. There’s a fire station a block away and about 2 minutes later the fire trucks all were coming down here,” said Mike Hill, Owner of Maguire’s Bar and Grill.

This caused Hill to have to cancel food orders. Meaning Friday’s lunch hour, was missing the lunch part.

“We’ve called our food provider and told him to hold cause they’re bringing a refrigerated truck. We told him to wait until they get the power back on to deliver,” Hill said.

Davison says the city’s unique underground power structure means the fire department had to alter its response.

“Bloomington has these downtown vaults, that are tunnels that go through and hold a lot of that power. So we don’t have overhead power lines. It was a bit of a unique call cause normally a transformer will be up in the air. Once we determined it was electrical, you can’t put any water on it, so we waited for Ameren,” Davison said.

The McLean County Museum of History was in the middle of it all.

It was completely out of power on the eve of the museum’s biggest event of the year.

“The Evergreen Cemetery walk is in its last weekend so it’s been tricky for sales for tickets but you can buy tickets online,” said Director of Education Candace Summers.

Summers said she heard about the transformer catching fire from a Facebook group she’s on with other downtown business owners.

“We found out there was a transformer blowing and it was a huge thing right in front of one of our local businesses. Fortunately, everyone’s okay,” Summers said.

The power was turned back on around 2:15 p.m.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries and was transported to Advocate Bromenn, but was able to go back to work later in the day.

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