Smoky manhole fire snarls Kenmore Square traffic, leads BU to evacuate building; no injuries

A smoky manhole caused traffic headaches and the shutdown of Commonwealth Avenue inbound to Kenmore Square this afternoon, city officials said.

The problem was limited to one manhole in front of a Boston University building in the 500 block of Commonwealth Avenue inbound, Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said.

Just before 1:30 p.m., “a section of underground electric cable failed, causing smoke in the manhole,” said NStar spokesman Mike Durand.

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Prior to firefighters arriving, BU evacuated 580 Commonwealth Ave., a graduate student dormitory, as a precaution, MacDonald and Boston University spokesman Colin Riley said. No smoke ever entered the building, MacDonald said.

Inbound traffic was shut down around 1:30 p.m. from the BU Bridge to Kenmore Square, according to a Boston University Alert Service message sent to students. MBTA service from Blandford Street to Kenmore Square was also shut down. People were told to avoid the area.

Commonwealth Avenue was reopened as of 2:30 p.m., Boston University Police said.

No one was injured, Riley said.

MacDonald said with NStar’s approval, firefighters doused the smoky manhole with water. Twenty-eight customers were affected by the cable failure. All except one had power restored within an hour, Durand said. He expected full power restoration by 3:30 p.m.