Cause of Drake Power Plant Fire Announced

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Colorado Springs Drake Power Plant has announced that the major fire that disrupted power for residents was caused by human error.

A duty report released by the Colorado Springs Fire Department revealed a mechanic made an error while making repairs to an oil filter.  The mechanic believes he turned the wrong filter.  The fire happened so fast, he wasn't able to turn it back.

An excerpt from the report:  

The mechanic stated that he had a "PM" to change the filters on the latching system for the turbine.

The mechanic stated he "walked the clearance down" and signed on the clearance...he returned to the area to make the repair and he "cracked it," it being the oil filter, with a strap wrench. The mechanic stated as soon as he turned the oil filter it shot turbine in the direction of the "hot pipes." The mechanic stated that he didn't have time to turn it back because of the fire occurred so quickly. "It flashed so fast."

...He [the mechanic] stated it was a big ball of fire.

The turbines are fed by super-heated steam from the boiler.  The filter that the mechanic was scheduled to repair is on the latching system for the turbine.  There are two different filters and when one is being worked on the other is operational, and pressurized.  The mechanic accidently began to work on the pressurized filter.

When the mechanic loosened the filter, the oil shot in the direction of the hot pipes and a flash fire occured.

CSFD Fire Chief Christopher Riley said, "We really had the ultimate test...firefighters made the ultimate decision to go inside and put the fire out with the possibility that there could have been an explosion while they were fighting the fire.  Had they not gone in, it could have caused an explosion in the surrounding neighborhood that would have been catastrophic."