Damage to underground electric cables likely caused fire, explosions in downtown Colorado Springs, investigators say

Dan Boyce/CPR News
Colorado Springs Utilities crews excavate an area damaged by an explosive underground utility fire which occurred on Sept. 11, 2023.

An explosion and power outage in downtown Colorado Springs in September 2023 was likely caused by damage to underground electric cables, according to Colorado Springs Utilities. The city-owned utility said the likely damage occurred when a private contractor used a truck-mounted drill without following state-mandated protocols.

The fire, which occurred in the early morning hours on Sept. 11, 2023, was not linked to an underground transformer, the utility agency said.

It did, however, cause "significant damage" to electrical equipment and led to a power outage that affected around 280 customers in the area, some for days.

Investigators couldn't pinpoint the damage to a specific timeframe. However, a spokesman for Springs Utilities said the agency is "using this opportunity to re-emphasize education efforts with local contractors on proper protocols."

Andrea Chalfin/KRCC News
A business in downtown Colorado Springs closed for two days after an underground fire caused a power outage. Sept. 13, 2023

Even minor damage to only one or two of Springs Utilities-owned electric cables can still cause a fire, the agency said. Evidence of the specific type of drilling and "extensive damage" was found beneath a plywood patch in at least one location under Kiowa Street, though in total, investigators found three potential points of origin.

To prevent this type of explosion from happening again, the agency said they would “be installing new technology on underground electric cables in the downtown area to better equip us to isolate a damaged cable from the rest of the system.”