Hayden Station fire out fast

A fire in the wall of the Xcel Energy Hayden Station was discovered and extinguished early Wednesday morning.

There were no injuries from the fire, which was contained within one section of a wall, and the plant did not have to stop or slow operations as a result.

About 4:30 a.m., sparks and fire were found coming out of the east wall of the main power plant, Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz said.

Workers called the West Routt Fire Protection District, which responded about 20 minutes later with four firetrucks. Another truck was sent from Steamboat Springs.

Firefighters cut three holes in the wall and put the fire out with water, said West Routt Fire Chief Bryan Rickman.

Within one wall, the fire extended from the seventh to the ninth floor of the building, Rickman said.

Although there will be an investigation, Stutz said the cause of the fire likely was coal dust that had collected over time in the insulation between the walls of the plant. The wall that had the fire was below coal conveyor belts, so it's possible dust could have fallen through cracks in the wall.

Coal can self-combust, Stutz said. The station is made completely of noncombustible materials, he said, so it likely was coal burning in the wall.

The wall was 2 inches thick with metal sheeting on either side, and noncombustible insulation inside. Because of the heat from the fire, the insulation had melted, Stutz said. The fire did not affect station operations, and damage was minor, he said.

The station will complete an analysis of what happened and then will take appropriate steps to prevent such a wall fire from happening again, he said. He said he did not think any similar fires had taken place in the past.

"It's not something that you want happening more than once if possible," Stutz said.

The fact that several employees at the station also work with the fire protection district was an advantage, Stutz said.

Firefighters arrived on the scene at 5:08 a.m., and the fire was completely out and the area cleared by 8:15 a.m., Rickman said. He estimated damage to be about $5,000.

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