Downtown Binghamton Fire Prompts Evacuation
The Courthouse Square section of downtown Binghamton was evacuated for about two hours after a natural gas-fueled fire erupted in the old Midtown Mall complex.
The incident at 83 Court Street was reported at 11:21 a.m. Thursday.
Binghamton assistant fire chief Gary O'Neill told WNBF News a worker who cut into the gas line in the building's basement was "very lucky" to have escaped injury.
O'Neill said sparks from the worker's equipment ignited the escaping gas but there was no explosion.
The assistant chief said the fire continued to burn for over an hour until a NYSEG crew located a gas shutoff valve.
The valve, located a few feet from the building, was buried in a planter that was installed last year during the Court Street reconstruction project.
Utility workers removed a small tree and dug into the dirt to gain access to the valve to turn off the gas.
O'Neill said a wall near the ruptured gas line became "white hot" as the fire continued to burn. He said the line had been mistakenly marked as being inactive.
The fire occurred in part of the Midtown Mall complex that was heavily damaged by a massive fire nearly three years ago.
Work on the delayed University Lofts student housing project resumed a few months ago.