Explosion in downtown Denver at manhole covers after water main break

Explosions that rattled downtown Denver and kicked up smoke early Sunday came from sewer lines blowing off manhole covers, fire department officials said Monday.

The explosions happened shortly before 3 a.m. near the intersection of 18th and Arapahoe streets.

“We had manhole covers bursting. We saw smoke,” Denver Fire Department spokesman J.D. Chism said.

Before dawn Sunday, a Denver Water main line broke in the area and a utility junction box apparently blew up, police and fire officials said. These incidents may have played a role.

Xcel Energy officials on Monday were looking into what happened. Denver Water officials couldn’t be reached.

Several residents downtown reported hearing explosions and seeing gray smoke billowing above buildings near 18th and Arapahoe.

Manhole covers typically explode after a spark from wiring ignites gas. A cast-iron manhole cover can weigh between 85 and 300 pounds and explosions in the past have propelled these discs into the air.

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