Fire in tunnel under downtown Richmond

Posted at 11:35 AM, Jan 24, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Tense moments at VCU Medical Center Thursday morning after a fire sent hundreds of people out in the cold.  The fire started in a maintenance tunnel below some buildings along East Broad Street around 10:30 a.m.

The tunnel filled with smoke and alarms sounded in surrounding buildings.

Two buildings in the 1200 block of East Broad, including the Old West Hospital, were evacuated.

It was a small fire, but a large response from the Richmond Fire Department. Firefighters said they did not want to take any chances.

“It was smoky and set off alarms in several buildings," Richmond Fire Lt. Robbie Hagaman said. "We’re dealing with state buildings and a hospital so we did need to take extreme measures and err on the side of caution.”

Dozens of firefighters responded to the scene. The fire was marked under control in about 15 minutes. Firefighters determined the fire started in some debris. Workers at VCU Medical Center were allowed back inside 45 minutes after the fire started.

“Yes it is cold. Everyone wants to be warm and inside especially in dealing with these types of situations," Hagaman said. "As soon as we can get there and determine it wasn’t what we initially thought it was and hope for the best and get people back in their warm location.”

Fire investigators do not believe the fire was intentionally set.