Power restored after fire at PG&E substation

Image 1 of 2

Power has been restored to all 43,000 East Bay residents and businesses after a transformer failure and fire at a PG&E substation in El Cerrito Monday that disrupted BART service and traffic signals in Berkeley, according to PG&E.

The PG&E customers in Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond and San Pablo lost power after the equipment failure at about 9:30 a.m., PG&E officials said. Everyone's power was restored as of about 1 p.m.

The fire started when cables failed inside a new 115,000-volt transformer installed just over the weekend. The 1-inch diameter cables made a loud sound as they failed, prompting some callers to report there had been an explosion, El Cerrito Fire Battalion Chief Michael Pigoni said.

The failure set about 20 hay bales on fire, Pigoni said. The hay bales were set around the transformer as it was installed just in case there was a coolant leak.

Firefighters were at the substation for about two-and-a-half hours, first waiting for the transformer to power down, then taking the hay bales apart to get the fire out.

The area affected by the power outage included the Downtown Berkeley BART station, which closed for about two hours. Trains didn't stop at the station starting at about 9:45 a.m. and service was restored at about 11:45 a.m., according to BART.

Many traffic lights in Berkeley lost power as well, police confirmed. While the signals are out, drivers are advising to treat them as a four-way stop sign and to yield to other drivers.