SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A power substation fire triggered massive outage in San Francisco Friday morning, forcing the closure of a downtown BART station during rush hour, stranding people in elevators, shutting down operating rooms and halting service on city’s famed cable car lines.
The city’s Department of Emergency Management said the outages were concentrated in the northern part of San Francisco. The fire department responded to at least 20 reports of people stuck in downtown elevators.
Nearly 100,000 customers were without power in the city at the height of the outage. California Pacific Medical Center was on backup power and had been forced to shut down its operating rooms.
Fire and Pacific Gas and Electric crews were at the site of a smoky fire at a utility substation and vault facility on 600 Larkin St. The utility told KPIX 5 it was the “primary source” of the outage.
“Insulation is still smoldering,” said a San Francisco Fire Department spokesman of the substation fire. “We are trying to cool it, but we need to bring in our CO2 unit to assist us. We have been using dry chemicals to put out the flames, but it’s still hot and keeps reigniting.”
A BART alert at 9:15 a.m. advised passengers of the closure at Montgomery St. Station “due to a technical problem with PG&E” and advised commuters to take buses to their location in the downtown area.
The transit agency brought in a generator and parked it outside the station in an effort to get it back online. The generator was able to bring the station online at 11:32 a.m.
The Montgomery station is a key stop all BART lines coming into the city. San Francisco Muni underground lines and cable car lines were also knocked out of service.
The San Francisco Office of Emergency offices in the Fillmore District was knocked offline by the outage, officials said.
Meanwhile, the power outage caused traffic chaos on the streets of San Francisco.
Mon Alicia took to Twitter to comment: “I always thought The Big One would throw San Francisco into mass chaos. I’m learning a large scale downtown power outage does the same.”
Brandon Bradford tweeted: “Huge power outages in NYC and SF right now. In a movie people would be freaking out.”
Power was also out from San Francisco’s Union Square to the Marina District. Union Square shops were closed because of the outage. Power was also out at the Presidio.
“Shortly after 9 a.m., a series of power outages began affecting parts of San Francisco, and as of 9:30 about 90,000 PG&E customers are out of power,” said PG&E Spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian.
The spokeswoman did not know the cause of the outage or when it would be resolved.