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City goes dark

Published Oct. 6, 2005

An abandoned building at 1601 Marion St. erupted in fire about 10 p.m. Saturday, affecting a nearby TECO substation and setting off power outages in downtown, West Tampa and Ybor City.

"The fire burned through three main power lines that feed the substation," said Tampa police Officer Paul Madsen.

Approximately 5,000 customers lost power temporarily, said TECO spokesman Mike Mahoney. Within 20 minutes, 3,000 of those customers were back on line. By midnight, all but 10 customers had power restored, said Mahoney, and they were expected to have power in the next few hours.

The vacant building has been known to house street people at times, said Lt. Eric Hall of the Tampa Fire Department. It was too hot for firefighters to search inside the building early Sunday and it was not known whether anyone was inside.

The blaze, which was brought under control by 10:45 p.m., created enough smoke to set off smoke detectors in nearby homes, sending frightened residents into the street.

WFLA-Ch. 8 reported on its 11 p.m. newscast that the power outage knocked the station off the air briefly. The station is at 905 E Jackson St., several blocks from the fire.

The Lakeland Ledger reported that Saturday's performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center was interrupted as lights flashed about 10 minutes before the climax.

Theatergoers thought it was part of the show, the Ledger said.

"The lights went out all over the city at once," said Doug Hamn, the center's house manager.

Emergency lights in the ceiling came on, illuminating the stage and audience.

"Ladies and gentlemen, obviously there's been some sort of power outage," said stage manager Randy Buck. "Apparently there's been an explosion and power is out all over the city of Tampa."

Normal lighting was restored after about 15 minutes and the production resumed.

The cause of the blaze was unknown Saturday night.