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Electrical fire delays Kew Gardens subway lines

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A fire in a power line under Queens Boulevard in the Borough Hall section of Kew Gardens last Wednesday caused rush-hour delays of up to an hour for passengers on the Queensbound E and F lines.

The fire caused a manhole cover to explode and tied up traffic along the boulevard as well.

The electrical line, which fed AC power to the two subway lines, was lost at 6:50 p.m. due to the fire, New York City Transit spokesman Diedre Parker said. Service was suspended from 78th Avenue to the end of both lines.

"Between 7:08 and 7:34 the situation impacted the E and F lines," Con Edison spokeswoman Joy Farber said. "When salt is put on road surfaces, it creates corrosion in wiring."

Faber said the power company had been experiencing similar problems throughout the city with the onset of snowy winter conditions.

A system operations inspector with the Queens division of the Office of Emergency Management who asked for anonymity said the burned-out wire cables fed power to subway train signal lights, which regulate subway traffic.

"Safety is paramount," the inspector said in explaining the delays in service due to the fire.

Half of the manhole cover was visible a few feet away from the hole where it been blown into the air, smoke still billowing from it. The explosion occurred just a few feet away from the first stop for the northbound Q74 bus, on the south side of Queens Boulevard. That block and the three west of it, were cordoned off by fire and police vehicles, which created a traffic bottleneck on the boulevard.

"We don't even know where the other half is," the inspector said, referring to the manhole lid, which was split in half in the explosion. Despite the violence of the explosion, there were no injuries.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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