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Fire Sparks Blackout in Washington Heights

By Carla Zanoni | June 2, 2011 6:59am | Updated on June 2, 2011 9:14am

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A manhole burst into flames Wednesday night, cutting off power and forcing three Hudson Heights buildings to be evacuated.

Fire officials moved tenants out of 175, 180 and 196 Pinehurst Avenue as high carbon monoxide levels caused by a blaze in the West 187th Street manhole rose to dangerous levels, the FNDY said.

The fire was reported at approximately 8:24 p.m. and the blaze was out by 10:56 p.m., according to the FDNY.

ConEd investigators were on the scene to investigate the source of the fire after it was put out.

Workers said the company would not be able to comment until Thursday.

According to residents, the power came back on by 4 a.m. FDNY officials said all tenants had been allowed back into their homes.

When the power first went out tenants calmly stood on sidewalks outside on 187th Street, between Pinehurst and Fort Washington Avenue, as the area's popular restaurants stayed open — with customers eating by candlelight.

"My bldg has no power either, & manhole covers are exploding," one resident wrote on her private Twitter feed, later tweeting that she had been let back into her home which had partial power, but no water.

"Not another power outage 4 the luv of GOD!" tweeted Twitter user Punkrose33, possibly reminiscing about several blackouts in the area over the years, including one in July 1999 that left Inwood and Washington Heights without power for 19 hours.

Other residents took the power outage as a chance to relax with neighborhood friends in the unseasonably warm weather.

Genesis Suarez, 9, who lives in the neighborhood, was hoping for the best.

"I hope they close school tomorrow," she said.

A small crowd of about ten regulars waited out the blackout at popular neighborhood bar the Monkey Room, at 589 Fort Washington, after the bartenders lit the room with backup lights.

"We are working with what we have so people can stay," said bartender Henry Gonzalez as he watched over the still jovial crowd.

But ultimately, Gonzalez said the blackout would mean lost dollars for the bar.

"It’s not good," he added. "This is a business, this is not good."