Power restored to entire UH-Manoa campus after large transformer fire

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A transformer fire at the University of Hawaii-Manoa sent thick, black smoke into the air over Honolulu on Thursday night.

Honolulu fire crews responded to the 6:47 p.m. blaze, which was at an electrical substation on Lower Campus Road, just outside the right field fence at Les Murakami Stadium.

Fire Capt. Scot Seguirant said oil that is used to cool the transformers somehow caught fire.

Firefighters used water to contain the flames, which were visible for several miles.

UH students knew something was wrong when the power went out in their dorms.

"We all went, 'the power's out, the field might be on fire,'" said student Joe Sovella. "So we got here and we saw this over here, so we checked it out."

"We were sitting at home and the power went out, and we heard like a loud 'boom!' And we tried to get closer and saw a big cloud over here and saw this happening," said another student, Ryan Elberson.

The two were among dozens of students who gathered in a parking lot a safe distance away to watch the flames, which weren't extinguished until about 8 p.m.

Seguirant said HFD crews initially didn't use foam to knock down the flames because it doesn't have the right kind of foam to handle oil and gasoline fires. A state crew from the airport arrived with Class B foam -- which can smother oil fires -- arrived to cover the transformer to ensure that flames would not reignite.

"We do have our partnership with the federal fire department and the state fire department, but it's very difficult to be prepared for every single event that will happen," he said.

HECO said some 3,000 customers were affected. Much of the UH campus was still dark, but a spokesman said HECO crews will transfer the power load to an electrical substation that was recently built in the upper campus area.

A UH spokesman said power was restored to the entire campus early Friday, and that all classes would go on as planned.

The only facility that isn't hooked up to the new substation is the Stan Sheriff Center, but no events are scheduled there this weekend.

This story will be updated. 

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