Fire at Pasadena Power Plant Extinguished by Fire Sprinklers

Fire at Pasadena power plant sparks pleas for conservation

By Brenda Gazzar

and Lauren Gold, SGVN

Posted: 10/16/2012 10:01:50 PM PDT October 17, 2012 6:38 AM GMTUpdated: 10/16/2012 11:38:21 PM PDT
A fire from a gas turbine when it was turned on, behind the door, at the Power Plant in Pasadena Tuesday, October 16, 2012. At 10:18 a.m. the Pasadena Fire Department was called, with 8 units of a mutual response from Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra fire departments. Black smoke was see coming out of the stack on the right before the fire was extinguished. There were two people inside the door area when the fire occurred but there were no injuries and no loss of power from the plant. (SGVN/Photo by Walt Mancini)

PASADENA - An apparent equipment malfunction at the Glenarm Power Plant caused a generating unit to catch fire Tuesday morning, sending smoke at least 65 feet into the air and sparking concerns about the possibility of rolling blackouts.

No one was injured, officials said. No damage estimate was available.

The fire, the second of its kind at the plant since May 2010, was contained within a large metal case that houses the generating unit, said Pasadena Water and Power spokeswoman Erica Rolufs. The flames were extinguished by the plant's fire suppression system, she said. Repairs after the 2010 fire cost $15 million, which was covered by insurance.

Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said Tuesday's fire was extinguished within half an hour, after workers shut off the gas. More than two dozen firefighters from South Pasadena, Alhambra and Pasadena responded to the blaze that erupted at 10:18 a.m.

"Our main concern is that we have a heat wave coming up this week," PWP spokeswoman Erica Rolufs said, noting that there is only one power generating unit now online since two others are under repair.

"With our plant operating at less than full capacity, we're going to have to bring in more electricity through our cross-town transmission lines. There is going to be more load on our electric system than we would normally have. ... Sometimes, in those circumstances, that can cause equipment failure."

PWP officials urged customers to reduce their electricity consumption this week.

If there is another incident, such as an emergency outage or equipment failure this week, "we might have to implement rolling blackouts," Rolufs said.

It appears the fire occurred after a blade from a turbine broke off, overheated the system and caught fire, Rolufs said.

"That generating unit is down," Rolufs said. "That's definitely major damage. ... We have other units that are still operating."

The generating unit damaged by flames in May 2010 is still under repair, she said. Both turbines were made by the same manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, and installed in 1975, Rolufs said.

It's not yet known whether the generating unit that caught fire Tuesday will have to be replaced or just repaired, she said.

Fire personnel were on site for about two hours and officials did not yet have a damage estimate.

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