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An underground electrical transformer exploded in Downtown today, filling a block with thick smoke and forcing hundreds of office workers to evacuate.

Flames licked from a grate near the entrance of Charlie & Barney’s at 251 E. Ohio Street and rose nearly one story, scorching an adjacent parking garage.

The bar and grill restaurant, near the intersection of Ohio and Delaware streets, is known for its chili and is among dozens of locations in the Indianapolis-metro area.

Nearly 1,000 workers were ordered out what is known as the “gold’ building at Delaware and Ohio Streets.

Jessica Brown, 53, works on the 16th floor and said the explosion about 2:30 p.m. sounded like the collision of two freight trains. She and 20 co-workers at the Private Industry Council hustled down 16 flights of stairs at the urging of security guards.

Brown watched firefighters attack the flames and wondered what condition her car would be in when she finally got into the garage.

The while firefighters tried to get the source of the blaze extinguished, they also poured water on the east side of the gold building to minimize damage.

Indianapolis Fire Department spokeswoman Capt. Rita Reith said fire started with an explosion in an underground transformer. The transformer is privately owned and not linked to the Indianapolis Power & Light Co. grid.

No one was injured in the fire.

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