City Hall Power Knocked Out by Fire

San Francisco City Hall.jpg
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An electrical fire at City Hall knocked out power to the building last night, leaving much of the seat of government in the dark this morning -- and a portion of the basement under water.

At around 9:30 last night -- while around 300 guests attended a private soiree -- the small electrical fire broke out in the basement. Department of Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon said the blaze was isolated to a shoebox-sized portion of the large box housing wiring that takes in electrical power from outside the building and distributes it within. But while the fire was small, it disabled a major electrical conduit.

Sprinklers quickly extinguished the blaze, and fire crews additionally hosed it down, leaving about 2 inches of water in the electrical room, Gordon added (overnight crews had cleaned up the fire room by sunrise, however). When the alarm sounded, partygoers were quickly escorted out of the building.

Diesel generators automatically kicked in, and remain in use. Much of the building, however, is still only illuminated by sunlight, and many City Hall workers have been sent to work elsewhere. The Board of Supervisors is conducting its regular business under emergency lighting. A Golden State Warriors press conference is under way.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Also undetermined is the monetary damage it inflicted.

Gordon said city crews hope to have regular power restored by later this afternoon. But there are only two points where electrical power enters the building. One burned and the other is now waterlogged -- so it must dry out before crews move forward. The pair of diesel generators hold 600 gallons of fuel apiece -- enough to run City Hall for roughly a day and a half. Gordon said they may be refueled this afternoon.

The basement room where the fire broke out is on the same level as the city's Department of Elections, where ballot-tallying continues. There was no smoke, fire, or water damage to any ballots, however -- so that element of drama won't pervade the ongoing District 7 ballot count.

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