Firefighters battle blaze at power plant

By Bruno Matarazzo Jr.

Staff writer, The Salem News

Sat, May 05 2008

SALEM — Sparks from a welding torch started two small fires inside a boiler at the Salem Harbor Station yesterday.

Firefighters responded to the Fort Avenue power plant shortly after noon. The boiler was not damaged and was not on at the time of the fire, minimizing the potential for danger.

Salem fire Deputy Chief Brian Harrington said sparks from the welding ignited a nearby plank on a platform that was about three stories above the ground.

An ember from that fire fell to the ground and started a second fire in some construction debris, Harrington said.

Firefighters knocked down the debris fire quickly but getting to the initial fire was more taxing. Harrington said a winding, metal staircase made it tricky to bring a fire hose all the way up to the burning plank.

Communicating with firefighters was also tricky because the boiler is encapsulated by steel, Harrington said.

"There was so much steel it was interfering with the radios," he added.

It was unclear which of the power plant's four burners was the location of the fire.

Two of the power plant's four boilers recently began running again following a Nov. 6 steam-pipe accident that killed three Dominion workers.

Two of the plant's three coal-burning boilers are back in service. Unit 3, which had the steam pipe accident, is not running yet. The plant's fourth and largest power generator, an oil-burning boiler, is expected to return to service in a few weeks, a company spokesman said.

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