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St. Petersburg electrical fire knocks out power to section of Fourth Street N

ST. PETERSBURG — Firefighters and electric company workers were on the scene of a fire Tuesday afternoon that knocked out power to Orange Blossom Catering and several other homes and businesses around 220 Fourth St. N.

Fire trucks surrounded the area, traffic was diverted from Fourth Street and brown smoke could be seen at the back of the building.

Duke Energy spokesman Sterling Ivey said the loss of a transformer left roughly 3,000 people without power downtown for about 20 minutes in the early afternoon. About 256 customers still did not have power at about 3 p.m., he said. Service was expected to be restored to everyone by approximately 7 p.m.

Ed Shamas, the owner of Orange Blossom Catering, said a transformer behind his building failed shortly after 1 p.m. He said flames and a shower of sparks slid down the electrical pole that held the transformer.

"It wasn't like it was a tremendous explosion," he said. "It was almost like lighting a firecracker."

Orange Blossom still did not have power at about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Shamas said a few of the businesses around him did not have power in the morning. Duke Energy workers responded and were there most of the day. Then the transformer blew up, sparking the wider outage.

Inside Orange Blossom, Shamas said he keeps about five coolers stocked with meats, vegetables, and desserts — "Who knows, $20,000 worth of food or something," he said — all of which were at risk because of the outage.

Shamas, who has run the catering company for approximately 40 years, said the supplies could last about 12 hours — but if the outage persisted, he planned to rent refrigerated trucks to save his stock.

The caterer was done with his appointments for the day when the power went out, and Shamas said he should be able to meet all obligations on Wednesday, including art clubs and a mental health services customer in Tampa.

"One way or another, we'll get them food," he said.

Randy Wojcik, 52, works at Orange Blossom and lives in an apartment building just behind the broken transformer. He also did not have power midafternoon Tuesday and planned to stay at his girlfriend's house seven blocks away overnight.

"I have food in my fridge and everything," Wojcik said. "But the main thing is, it's extremely uncomfortable with no fans or air conditioners in those apartments."

Times staff writer Kameel Stanley contributed to this report. Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at zsampson@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804. Twitter: @zacksampson.

St. Petersburg electrical fire knocks out power to section of Fourth Street N 07/02/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 4:27pm]
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