Underground transformer fire leaves several businesses without power

EL DORADO, Ark. (KNOE) - An underground transformer fire rocked downtown El Dorado Thursday afternoon just before 12:30 p.m.

SOURCE: KNOE

For Murphy-Pitard Jewelers, it was a typical day at work. The owner Amanda Pitard, was busy helping customers and thought it was the store’s electrician that caused the commotion.

"He was actually putting up some lights in our back office and so my first thought was - oh gosh, we overloaded some sort of circuit not understanding that there was a bigger problem," said Pitard.

That problem Amanda Pitard is talking about was an underground transformer that went up in flames just feet away from her store.

"We have windows along the street we could see everything getting really dark with black smoke and we could actually see it boiling out of the sidewalk over there."

The blaze knocked out power for several businesses blocks away from the site of the fire, forcing many to close their doors early.

Amanda says when she finally realized what was happening, safety became her priority.

"Then, of course, our second thought was security, the safety of our employees, and then third thought is security for when you have a jewelry store."

When the power went out, they lost their security alarms and couldn't depend on their back up system to protect the jewels. This forced them to stay behind and try to find another solution.

"We have back up batteries on our alarm system, but they don't last all night, and so we've been trying to rewire our alarm system to keep us secure through the night."

Rather than fleeing the store, she told her customers to shelter in place and stay away from the smoke.

"We definitely encouraged them to stay inside because with the smoke and not really understanding what was happening, I figured they would be better off in here than out on the street."