The Biomass One plant in White City, OR, remains shut down after a two-alarm fire broke out Wednesday afternoon.
A team of experts are in the process of inspecting the plant to find out why a generator circuit breaker cabinet caught fire near the turbine room at the wood debris-fired power plant at 12:30 p.m.
The fire never spread outside the cabinet, located on the second floor of the concrete 30-megawatt plant, said Biomass One General Manager Kurt Lumpkin.
“We were able to keep the fire contained to that cabinet,” Lumpkin said.
Lumpkin knows components in the breaker cabinet got super-heated. After the fire ended up extinguished, firefighters monitored the cabinet for about 20 minutes watching for sporadic flare ups.
Contrary to early reports, no employees needed to be evacuated during the fire, according to Lumpkin. The fire closed Avenue G for about 45 minutes while six engines from Jackson County, OR, Fire District 3 and Medford Fire-Rescue responded.
When the fire broke, breaker protection systems automatically separated the plant from the power grid, Lumpkin said. The plant couldn’t receive power until about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, and still isn’t producing power.
“We’re not generating right now,” Lumpkin said. “We have to make sure we can do so safely.”
Lumpkin couldn’t yet estimate when the plant would be operational again, nor was he able to estimate costs from the damage and losses caused by the fire.
Technical experts will inspect the entire system to determine the root cause of the fire and outline repairs.
“They actually have the diagnostic equipment that will tell us exactly,” Lumpkin said.
Once all components in the plant end up tested and are operational, getting back online is a technical challenge in and of itself.
“These are big, complex machines,” Lumpkin said. “You can’t just flip a switch and they come on and off.”