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Fire strikes Mitchell Plant |

Fire strikes Mitchell Plant

Jeff Pikulsky
| Tuesday, July 30, 2002 12:00 a.m

A back-up generator malfunctioned and caused a major fire last night at Allegheny Energy’s Mitchell Plant in Elrama.

Allegheny Energy spokeswoman Janice Lantz said the power station was evacuated approximately 10 p.m. and shut down shortly after a mechanical mishap.

“We had a major generator failure on the unit,” Lantz said. “(It) ignited the lubricating oil on the machinery. There was a major fire … there were pieces of things that went flying.

“We had an electrical fault or a breakdown and that’s what people called the explosion. We’re not sure what happened.”

Lantz said the station would be temporarily closed.

“They will not be back on, at least today,” she said. “There’s a lot of clean up to be done.”

The mishap will not leave customers without power.

“We’ll make up the generation from somewhere else,” she said.

Lantz said nine workers near the generator at the time of the accident were not harmed.

Nine fire departments responded, Lantz added.

“They had the fire under control in a very short period of time,” she said. “They had hot spots continue to flare up until 1:15 (a.m.).”

The generator was activated to supply extra energy at a peak time.

During extremely hot or cold weather, additional generators are used because energy use increases, Lantz said.

Lantz said the faulty oil-fueled unit was first used in 1948.

“As of 1994, we brought it back into our generating fleet,” she said.

The severely damaged 72-mega watt unit generates enough power to supply 7,200 buildings.

The power station is capable of generating more than 400 megawatts, Lantz said.

She could not recall the last accident at the plant.

“That facility, to my knowledge, has had a pretty good safety record,” Lantz said.

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