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No power shortage for Utilities, despite fire closing Drake plant indefinitely

       Colorado Springs Utilities can meet customer electrical needs, despite the temporary loss of the Martin Drake plant, which provides about a third of the city's power.
       Located off Cimarron Street, just east of I-25, Drake is closed for the time being after a fire May 5 (deemed accidental) that damaged part of the facility.
       An explanation was provided May 7 by Patrice Lehermeier of Springs Utilities:
       “At this time, we are able to meet the electricity demands of all our customers today and in the weeks and months ahead, despite this current challenge. Much to the benefit of our customers, we are able to rely heavily on our other local generation facilities, such as the Ray Nixon Power Plant and Front Range Power Plant. This is the most cost-effective option and an advantage of locally owned, locally managed public power. We also have access to purchase power agreements and short-term spot market purchases, although these alternatives come with a greater price.
       “A small handful of our employees have been able to enter, with extreme caution, and make very high-level condition assessments. When the fire department transfers the scene to us, we will be able to conduct more intensive evaluations that will help us understand the scope of repairs needed and potentially any cost impacts. Naturally, customers have asked about rate impacts, and while they're certainly possible, we don't have enough information yet to make any determinations.
       “Through all of this, the silver lining has been the fact that everyone involved in the incident is safe and no major injuries were sustained. Planning and employee awareness had a great deal to with that, but our gratitude goes to the Colorado Springs Fire Department, Colorado Springs Police Department and all of the first responders who took immediate action to protect our community and save the power plant. Time after time, these men and women come through in an amazing way. We are very fortunate to have such outstanding service and commitment to our community.”
       The following is the city's description (provided May 7) of the fire itself:
       “On May 5, 2014 at 9:40 a.m., Colorado Springs firefighters were dispatched to a reported structure fire at the Colorado Springs Utilities Martin Drake Power Plant, 700 Conejos St. The first CSFD engine arrived within five minutes to find a large body of fire and a large volume of smoke coming from the building. Firefighters immediately began an aggressive interior fire attack and quickly knocked down the main body of the fire. The fire was declared under control at 12:42 p.m. Crews worked the afternoon and into the evening overhauling hot spots to ensure the fire was extinguished.
       “CSFD responded to this four-alarm fire call with a total of 23 fire apparatus. Approximately 120 CSFD firefighters and support personnel were on scene. The quick and decisive actions taken by the first arriving fire crews and the incident commander resulted in the main body of fire being quickly extinguished and prevented additional damage from occurring.
       “One Colorado Springs Utilities contractor was transported to a local hospital for minor injuries and later released. One Colorado Springs Utilities employee was evaluated on scene and released. There were no firefighter injuries.
       “During the fire, a voluntary evacuation encompassed an approximately five-block radius, excluding the I-25 corridor, which impacted an estimated 785 residents. An unconfirmed number of businesses and their employees were also affected for approximately four hours. This included closing the railroad to all train traffic for the same time period.
       “The initial phase of the investigation has determined the fire to be accidental as a result of free flowing lubricating oil coming in contact with high temperature steam pipes which resulted in the flash fire. The fire was fed by the free flowing lubricating oil, which increased the fire's size and severity until fire department crews arrived and were able to suppress the fire. The investigation will be ongoing and may take several weeks to determine all the factors surrounding the cause of the fire. More information will be provided once the investigation is complete.
       “The Division of the Fire Marshal is working with Colorado Springs Utilities to verify various fire-suppression systems are in good working order in other critical areas of the plant and to gather information on processes, procedures and chemicals.
       “The Colorado Springs Fire Department acknowledges and thanks its mutual aid partners for responding in support of this incident, both to staff Colorado Springs fire stations and/or assist at the scene. Those that responded were the Air Force Academy Fire Department, Cimarron Hills Fire Department, Fountain Fire Department, Fort Carson Fire Department, Manitou Springs Fire Department, Security Fire Department, Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Department and Donald Wescott Fire Department. Support was also provided by the Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management, Colorado Springs Police Department, American Medical Response, the Salvation Army and Colorado Springs Utilities.”

Westside Pioneer/press release
(Posted 5/7/14; Community: Public Safety)

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