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Cedar Rapids buildings evacuated after string of fire alarms are triggered

Power line cut triggers fire alarms

Office workers gather at evacuation points as fire alarms blare in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Office workers gather at evacuation points as fire alarms blare in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A contractor cut into underground power lines on Wednesday afternoon and triggered a power outage that, in turn, might have been the cause of fire alarms going off in downtown Cedar Rapids, evacuating at least a half-dozen office buildings and sending hundreds of workers out onto the sidewalks.

Alliant Energy spokesman Justin Foss said a contractor working near Interstate 380 and 42nd Street NE dug into a section of underground power lines next to an electric substation. The substation shut down for a time, causing a power outage for about 1,400 customers.

The Cedar Rapids Water Division said that power outage affected one of the pumps in the city’s water distribution system and could have caused a fluctuation in water pressure. A slight decrease in water pressure can cause a water flow alarm.

The Cedar Rapids Fire Department dispatched crews to 13 fire alarms over about a 15-minute period between 2:45 and 3 p.m.

Greg Buelow, the city’s public safety spokesman, said the decrease in water pressure did not mean that there was no water available. The water-flow alarms indicate a drop in pressure and serve as a warning of an issue that needs to be corrected.

Beulow said normal water pressure returned after the fluctuation, and the water flow alarms were reset in the affected businesses without further incident.

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