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Electrical fire forces evacuation of YMCA

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ComEd crews were working to install a new transformer in the alley by the McGaw YMCA this morning after a transformer fire forced evacuation of the downtown Evanston building Saturday night.

No one was injured, but more than 90 residents had to spend the night at an emergency shelter set up at the Robert Crown Center.

ComEd crews were working to install a new transformer in the alley by the McGaw YMCA this morning after a transformer fire forced evacuation of the downtown Evanston building Saturday night.

No one was injured, but more than 90 residents had to spend the night at an emergency shelter set up at the Robert Crown Center.

The burned out transformer sitting on a truck waiting to be hauled away.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says that a number of locations in downtown Evanston had been experiencing power outages beginning in the late afternoon and that the fire at the YMCA at 1000 Grove Ave., which broke out around 8 p.m., apparently was caused by a power surge as ComEd tried to restore power in the area.

He says firefighters found fire and smoke coming from the transformer room and had difficulty getting immediate access to the room to extinguish the flames.

City recreation staffers already on duty at the Crown Center handling other events, along with volunteers from the city’s Community Emergency Response Team, helped the American Red Cross set up cots for the emergency shelter at Crown around midnight. Two recreation division buses were used to take the ‘Y’ residents to the center at 1701 Main St.

Residents at the entrance to the closed Y building this morning. 

As a few weary residents walked back the mile-and-a-half to the YMCA building from the Crown Center this morning to see if they could retrieve some possessions, one, Jeff Kashycke, said he wished the city had managed to set up a shuttle bus to help residents get back.

Kashyicke, who said he’s lived at the Y 15 years, also suggested that one disabled elderly resident, who’s lived at the Y for a half-century and is facing surgery later this week, should have been put up at a hotel rather than having to sleep on the hard cots at the rec center.

A city bus and Red Cross canteen truck outside the recreation center this morning.

The city manager said YMCA officials hope to have power restored to at least a portion of the building today so that, even if the residents can’t return to their rooms, they could at least be housed on cots at the Y building until repairs are completed.

He adds that although most of the downtown area had power as of early this morning, the Best Western Hotel was without electric service as of 12:30 a.m.

Update 12:50 p.m.: Bobkiewicz says ComEd has brought in two large generators which may be used to restore power if other means are not working soon. Power is also out in a small area in southwest Evanston on Oakton near McCormick which ComEd is working on. And the  Red Cross is still sheltering 75 people at the Crown Center.

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