UPDATE: Fire departments extinguish blaze at Tolk Station power plant

A large smoke cloud can be seen from a distance after a fire broke out at the Tolk Station. Photo by Anna DePalma Jennings

BY GAIL M. WILLIAMS,
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

A fire broke out in the main power transformer at one of the two Tolk power plant units a little after 5:30 p.m. Monday afternoon.

Fire departments from Muleshoe, Sudan, Earth and Lazbuddie battled the fire using a combination of water and Class B foam for about 3 ½ hours, according to Sudan Fire Chief Mike Hall.

The cause of the fire is being investigated, said Xcel Media Relations spokesman Wes Reeves.

The fire occurred on the main power transformer, the only one operating at the time.

“Power from the generator goes out and steps up the voltage, sending it to the main transmission network, which then sends it out to the cities,” Reeves said. “The fire was contained to the transformer, and while the fire looked like a big, black and oily smoker, it was contained to an area that was quite small.”

Though there were workers close by, “No one was injured, and we’re thankful for that,” Reeves said.

Right now, the unit is offline, and it will take some time before it is back in operation.

“The transformer was severely damaged, but there was no power outage, no problem with the power supply to any of the customers,” Reeves said.

The next step is to wait for the fire-damaged area to cool down so that investigations can proceed.

“There must have been some sort of fault that would have triggered something like that,” Reeves said. “Once it cools down, we need to inspect the damaged equipment. It’s a messy job. Maintenance will also be done on other unit, looking to bring unit back on.”

Reeves credited workers at the plant and area fire departments for their quick response to the emergency.

“The blast wall between that unit and the actual generator are well designed for a contingency like this. We had a great response from the fire departments. These are volunteers, guys that are working jobs during the day, but they’re ready at a moment’s notice. We never could have done without them. They did what they were trained to do.”

Hall said power plant fires are not something that happen all the time, but this was not the first one he’d been called to.

“I’ve instructed firefighters on how to put them out for about 25 years now,” Hall said. “Everybody did a really good job, us and Muleshoe, Earth and Lazbuddie.”

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