We Energies plant fire deemed minor

Published on: 10/30/2013

Oak Creek — Firefighters from Oak Creek, Cudahy, South Milwaukee, Franklin, Saint Francis and Greenfield responded to reports of smoke and fire at the Oak Creek We Energies power plant on Tuesday.

The fire was caused by a loss of control systems to two of the plant's boilers, causing cooling fans to shut down and igniting coal dust around insulation Oak Creek Fire Chief Thomas Rosandich said. Plant operators shut both boilers down and called 911.

Two small fires resulted, and they were put out within an hour, Rosandich said. No firefighters were injured. He added that the logistics of getting personnel to the right portion of the 1,400-acre plant was the most difficult part of the operation.

"The guys stuck to their plan inside, and everything went very well," Rosandich added.

We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said the plant was evacuated and no employees were injured. The two boilers will remain offline until plant operators run through a total inspection and fix the control systems.

"Right now we don't expect it to be high-damage incident at all," Manthey said, adding that the response from the Oak Creek Fire Department was exceptional. "They knew exactly where it was in the plant and are almost as familiar with the plant as our personnel are."

The two boilers that were shut down during the fire were the only two of six running at the time. The other four were going through scheduled maintenance, Manthey said. Most of the plant's routine maintenance occurs during fall, when energy demand is low.

There was no resulting loss of power to We Energies customers, as the company is diverting power from other plants during Oak Creek's downtime.