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Power outage causes city hall evacuation

November 18, 1998|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A burned-out fuse threw Martinsburg City Hall into darkness and forced the evacuation of several city employees Tuesday afternoon.

Fire trucks blocked Queen Street shortly after 12:30 p.m. while firefighters tried to find the cause of the problem that knocked out power to an estimated 40 customers around the 200 block of Queen Street, including City Hall and the traffic signal at Queen and Race streets.

Martinsburg Fire Chief Phil Martin said a fuse on a power pole near Spring and Burke streets burned out, causing a power reduction to parts of the downtown area.

The power outage was suspected of causing a heating unit on the City Hall rooftop to malfunction, creating an odor of burning wires that filled the building.

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"It smells awful," said one of eight city employees forced onto the sidewalk by the odor.

The two-story building usually has 25 to 30 workers inside, but many were out to lunch when the power went down. No one was injured in the incident.

Workers were allowed back into first-floor City Hall offices at about 1:15 p.m. after firefighters determined the odor was caused by a malfunctioning motor in a rooftop heating unit.

The odor wafted into rooftop ducts that brought the smell into the City Hall lobby.

Martin said repair crews were unsure if the motor problem was caused by the power loss or if it was merely a coincidence.

"It might have been ready to go anyway," Martin said.

While the first floor of City Hall only lost power to the lobby, the second floor remained closed until 3 p.m., when Allegheny Power workers restored full electrical service to the downtown area.

Businesses on either side of City Hall and the Martinsburg Police Department, on the first floor of City Hall, were unaffected by the power loss.

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