By Trevor Kapp and Wil Cruz
MIDTOWN — A Con Ed transformer located in an underground vault at West 33rd Street caught fire Thursday, injuring dozens of people and forcing the evacuation of 2,500, fire officials said.
The electrical device, at 333 W. 33rd St., caught fire just after noon, FDNY officials said.
Twenty-eight people were treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries at the scene, with three taken to Bellevue Hospital Center with minor injuries, fire officials said.
The fire had not yet been brought under control as of 3:30 p.m, fire officials said.
A spokeswoman for Con Ed said the transformer was located in an underground vault, spaces that are typically covered by street-level grates.
She said there were no outages as a result of the blaze.
The incident shook local workers who ran out of the West 33rd Street building when they learned of the fire.
''They told us to stay seated, but everyone was rushing," said Stephanie Ramirez, 22, who works as a clerk for an eligibility specialist on the third floor. "I tried to stay calm, but when I saw the lights flicker, I ran down the stairs. Everyone started leaving.''
Another building employee also described a chaotic scene.
''It was very smoky," said Ira Payne, who works as receptionist at the Cerebral Palsy Association on the building's 15th floor. "It was scary. My legs are still shaking.''
Lisa Coleman, an administrative assistant for the Cerebral Palsy Association, said she was one of the last two people out of building and was treated for a heart condition and smoke inhalation at the scene.
“The smoke was so bad, they told us to come back up," she said. “A firefighter gave me his mask as we got on the elevator so I could breathe better. It was very scary. My blood pressure was elevated.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation, officials said.