Milw. Co. 911 calls transferred to Waukesha Co. after electrical fire

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A small electrical fire near the Milwaukee County Courthouse Saturday afternoon, July 6th caused a power outage at the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office Communications Center.

The Communications Center began running on back-up power and initiated its emergency plan, including transferring 911 calls to the Waukesha County Sheriff's Communications Center.

"Any 911 call on a cell phone that goes to Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office is re-routed to our center and we pick up those 911 calls and determine whether to transfer them back to the Sheriff's Office or any of the other departments in Milwaukee County," explained Waukesha County Dispatch Supervisor Christine Bannister.

Waukesha County called in two extra dispatchers to keep up with the extra calls.

The Milwaukee Fire Department says in order to safely put out the fire back-up generators had to be shut off, causing the power outage at the courthouse and dispatch center.

"What we found was an underground vault, a control vault, with fire burning in all the control panels down there," said Milwaukee Fire Department Deputy Chief Terry Lintonen. "Any time you're dealing with underground power vaults in the downtown area, that's a very significant event."

It took about 50 firefighters to extinguish the fire, which was put out by 3 p.m, however Waukesha dispatchers continued to handle calls from Milwaukee County.

"My staff is absolutely trained to handle emergencies everywhere," said Bannister.

We Energies says electrical equipment in the courthouse suffered heavy damage from the fire.