Officials searching for cause of underground explosion - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Officials searching for cause of underground explosion


We have new information about an underground explosion Thursday night on Wausau's west side.

The explosion blew manhole covers off the ground.

"One of them lifted off, according to witnesses approximately twelve feet," said Wausau Fire Inspector David Desantis.

Wausau city officials and WPS workers said Thursday night's fiery scene may have been the result of failing insulation around electrical wires stored underground.

"There was a failure in the electrical supply lines between the transformer and the hotel service panel," said Desantis.

The explosion happened around 5:30 p.m., closing the LaQuinta Inn hotel.

When officials put out the fire, they said there was no sign of explosive gases.

"The initial testing after the fire was extinguished didn't show what that may be," said Desantis.

But city officials said the heat, combined with the materials inside could have led to a lot of pressure and the blast.

"Anytime there's a concealed space, confined space, there is a potential for build up of different gases, whether they be toxic or explosive," said Desantis.

Wausau city officials said there have been at least three similar issues over the past four years, including one in 2011 that set the very same hotel on fire.

Officials said they're not sure if those incidents are connected.

"Whether they're tied together or independent occurrences, is unknown to me at this time," said Desantis.

But, city officials and WPS workers told Newsline 9 they aren't taking any chances.

"It's not dangerous, we just want to ensure that all safety measures are being taken place and properly done," said Wausau City Electrical Inspector Todd Wunsch.

City officials have a temporary solution in place, providing power to the hotel until the problem can be completely fixed.

In the meantime, city officials have closed the sidewalk and alley next to the hotel, just to be safe.

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